A Government of Idiots (Pakistani Idiot of the Year 2012)

Ghulam Bilour (Source: AFP/ET)

So how low a government made up of supposedly progressive parties can go just to win cheap voter sympathy and public support?

I can quote analysts like Ayesha Siddiqa that there are hardly any secular forces in Pakistan. She is absolutely right, because those who are secular are virtually non-existent and are overwhelmed by the center and right forces.

But there are political parties like the ANP who claim to believe in non-violence and secular values, apart from the undying support of a number of their members to Peshawar’s (in)famous declaring-Eid-in-advance Masjid Qasim. Hey, I support their right to celebrate Eid the way they want.

I was very disappointed to see ANP’s very own Ghulam Bilour, who by far is the worst performing minister in the cabinet considering the shambles that the Railways is in, offering a bounty of $ 100,000 to anyone who kills the maker of the blasphemous film “Innocence of Muslims“.

I mean, really?

Before we even go into questioning the moral and legal authority of the minister, who maintains that he has offered the bounty in “personal capacity”, the greatest question to ask is this.

How is Mr. Bilour still holding his office and why the Government of Pakistan and the Awami National Party have not taken any action against the statement?

However, I do respect how he has responded to the news of the Taliban removing his name from their hit list. He was largely ambivalent, saying he could also die of a heart attack.

Nevertheless, I can hardly fathom the incalculable damage that he has done to the reputation of the country around the world. Not that it was very good already, but with such leaders at the helm, who needs enemies?

Source: AFP/ET

The government and the ANP should have taken strict action and should have called for the resignation of Bilour, if they could not agree to sack him. But despite all the clarifications, Bilour is still in charge of the Railways, a department which his administration has pulverized quite literally.

The statement was sensibly rejected by the incumbent Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, but let’s not offer him a clean sheet for that.

It was PM Ashraf’s absurd decision to observe the ridiculous holiday of “Yom-e-Ishq-e-Rasool” on Friday, September 21, 2012, which was an open invitation to the extremists of the country to unleash their wrath on the infrastructure and assets of the cities in Pakistan. The day ended with the loss of billions of rupees with more than 15 death and several injuries.

Source: AP/Dawn

It might sound a little harsh for someone who has lost his wife in such a cruel manner, but you really need to start acting like a head of state when you become one. I am really sorry to say but President Zardari looks like a complete idiot each time he places Benazir Bhutto’s portrait on the rostrum at the UN General Assembly. It was not his first appearance there this year. He has been at it before with the same portrait-displaying obnoxious exhibitionism.

Source: Wall Street Journal

His idiocy was also matched well by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding up a ridiculous chart which was supposed to tell the world why they have been all a bunch of idiots for not bombing Iran already. The bomb chart was brutally mocked by Israelis and non-Israelis alike shortly afterwards.

Both these props would have worked perfectly for both these gentlemen nevertheless.

What I personally found disgraceful about President Zardari’s speech was calling for an international blasphemy law or some kind of rules allowing UN to take action against alleged blasphemers. While this would sound perfectly sensible to Muslims around the world, I find it to be just another effort to extend censorship measures and to curtail freedom of speech. The Pakistani government, one which claims to uphold democratic and progressive values, has itself banned youtube over the film controversy and should keep its censorship advice for the world to itself.

I have been wondering why not start declaring the Pakistani idiot of the year from now on. We have our winner for the year 2012 already.

His Excellency Ghulam Bilour of ANP.

I can safely put my money on no one surpassing him in the last quarter.

Advertisements

Blasphemy Scanners & the Responsibility for Violence

Source: archbishopcranmner.blogspot.com

There is a certain type of Muslims. I call them Blasphemy Scanners. They are pretty fervent and though they are educated and may appear to be pretty peaceful, they are as fanatic as your average uneducated mullah.

These are zealots absolutely infatuated with the fear of someone in some remote corner of some country in the Western World insulting the good name of Prophet Muhammad in one way or another. While you would find youtube to be absolutely clogged with verbal insults to the Prophet, you cannot possibly take real action against just about every bigoted individual, can you?

Therefore, the only possible instances on which you could possibly invite and incite fellow believers to take meaningful action is published blasphemy. Even then, not all published perceived blasphemies are graced by the attention of these blasphemy hunters. Nevertheless, they try not to miss the chance whenever they do get to learn about one. Because just like honorably righteous people who like to catch people having encounters of a sexual nature in these countries, they like to hunt for reasonable blasphemies to outrage about.

If not all, then most of you would be familiar with the Muslim belief that anyone insulting Prophet Muhammad should be put to death. This view may not necessarily be very fervently shared by all sects who claim to be Muslims, but I believe that mainstream Sunnis and Shias would agree on it, especially the former. This is why the awareness of almost all the perceived blasphemies involve rage and more often than not direct incitement to violence, depending on the anger experienced by the particular blasphemy scanner at the moment.

The recent controversy over the film Innocence of Muslims, which has disappointed many over its appalling artistic quality and concerns over misleading actors about its subject, has sparked violent riots all over Pakistan as expected. In a wave of violence that swept Pakistan from Peshawar to Islamabad and from Lahore to Karachi, 4 cinemas, at least 3 bank branches, the Karachi Chamber of Commerce building and outlets of a US food chain were set fire. At least 100 people were reported injured and 19 were killed. 1 policeman was also killed among countless injured, while several ATMs were plundered.

All this occurred on the “Yom-e-Ishq-e-Rasool Day” or the “Love for the Prophet Day”, a meaningless holiday declared by the Pakistani Government on Friday, September 21, 2012. Let us not for a minute go into the ridiculous idea of the holiday, which was of course meant to invite “peaceful protest” over the offensive film, but let’s talk about what really happened at the end of the day. The violence of the protesters all over Pakistan clearly demonstrated to the world how tolerant Muslims are and and how ridiculous their reaction is. But then again, as I have mentioned in an earlier post, it has all happened before.

The interesting fact is that most of the people have criticized and condemned the violent protests resulting in the loss of billions of rupees and priceless and precious human lives. What is even more interesting is that a lot of people, who have been reproaching other Muslims for not taking enough action over the insult to Prophet Muhammad, are now left with no choice but to condemn the violence too, because they apparently had some other ideas about how the protesters would demonstrate their wounded faith. These primarily include hypocritical religious scholars pretending to be peaceful on TV.

Granted that any calls for peaceful protests over any alleged blasphemy is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But when they reprimand them for “not enough action” and “lack of honor and faith”, what exactly do they want people to do but to act like a mob and try burning the American embassy or worse local civilian and police property down to ashes. It is apparently the most convenient thing in the world to dismiss any onus of violence when you are actually calling for it, but the truth is that these blasphemy scanners are very much responsible for directly inciting violence as a reaction to these perceived offenses. I would like to hear that some of them are guilty about it.

As a matter of fact, I would go as far as deducing that these blasphemy scanners are more responsible for inciting violence than the original alleged blasphemers, if the latter are at all. The reason for that is quite simple and straightforward. The blasphemy scanners are directly inciting a reaction, which is more often than not violent in case of  extremist Muslims, especially knowing that the accepted reaction to mainstream Islam for the offense is one of violence. We have witnessed the same reaction against the alleged blasphemers in the case of the blasphemous films or the satirical cartoons about Prophet Muhammad to be sure about that.

You could doubt my point about violent incitement against perceived blasphemies, but it is very much part of the faith of most Muslims and it is widely accepted by the community around the world. A few protest text specimens calling for the death of those who have been involved in insulting Prophet Muhammad.

Source: Arif Ali (AFP)/Al-Akhbar

Source: The Daily Nation

Source: IndexonCensorship.org – A Protest from London

Source: DNA Photo

The last two photographs would be really shocking for some. The first one, for those who believe that Muslims living in the West are moderates and the second one for those who consider eunuchs and transgenders to be the most peaceful and the weakest members of the Pakistani society. In the last photo, they are calling for the beheading of the perceived blasphemers too. I don’t really blame them as violent individuals by nature and oppose doing so. It is their unreasonable faith which pushes them to call for such mindless violence. As a matter of fact, a businessman refusing to participate in the violent protests was accused of blasphemy as well.

Here are a few clips of some of the mainstream ulema or the scholars of Islam openly calling for the death of anyone who insults Prophet Muhammad. This includes Sunni scholars including the Deobandi and Barelvi schools and also a Shia scholar, which covers pretty much everything. Just in case you thought your particular brand of Islam was any better. You may want to skip the videos, if you are already convinced.

You could argue that these perceived blasphemies, particularly the film Innocence of Muslims, were meant to provoke a violent reaction, but it can easily be disproved because as far as I understand those works do not involve any direct call to violence. As for the latest controversy, it is just a very poorly made motion picture that takes an alternative and derogatory look at what would or could have been the history of the origins of Islam, I don’t know.

But certainly there is absolutely no excuse or justification for inciting violence and carrying out those violent acts, even if we suppose for a minute that the blasphemous film did really call for violence against Muslims, still there would be no justification for such hateful statements and violent protests harming people who have nothing to do with the controversy. And many so-called peaceful Muslim scholars, who bear the prime responsibility of inciting all the violence then try getting away with a clean image by condemning it once the act is committed.

While this post may seem contradictory to the notion offered in my earlier post that most peaceful Muslims do not take part in violent protests, it actually is not the case. Peaceful Muslims do not take part in violent protests indeed, and yes there do exist peaceful Muslims contrary to what they would like you to believe.

But yes, most of them are infected with the inability to challenge the barbaric, violent and completely unreasonable beliefs that are a part of their faith, so they play silent and willfully ignorant witnesses to this madness. Maybe they are not religious enough to be violent or maybe they are choosing to remain silent out of love of their own dear lives, but that’s the way it is.

The reason why the attitude of the moderate Muslims, who have many critics who call them no better than the extremists, is dangerous because such violent beliefs are extended to persecute minorities such as the Ahmedis. It is a well known fact that Ahmedis are considered offenders of the concept of the Finality of Prophet Muhammad by Sunni Muslims and many of them believe that it is a duty to murder them. So there is absolutely no doubt that the faith is violent but the followers have a choice to follow the incitement to violence or not.

Even if the film was meant to spark violence, the ignorant and tactless extremist Muslims have surely helped its makers  and financiers achieve their objectives.

What is the defence of violence?

What we can probably safely say is that the film surely was meant to spark hatred for Muslims but that too in an indirect manner and it is not the first film in the world made for propaganda purpose. But does that justify banning it? Because if you were to advocate banning it for those reasons, then I would also recommend banning scripture, another form of propaganda, by using the same rationale.

Of course that would not be acceptable to any religious person so it always hurts when they get a treatment of their own medicine.

Learn to live with it.

Here We Go Again: The Side We Missed

Source: The Daily Telegraph

Here we go again.

Told you it would happen again and here it happens again. It’s the same old cycle with the same old thing happening over and over again with the completely same consequences over and over again and it is so pathetic that you could actually accurately predict all that if you wanted to. Such is the lunacy of this situation.

As Albert Einstein said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

In the same manner, we have yet another “publicly recognized blasphemy” and yet another insane reaction to it. This time around it’s Sam Becile’s film called “Innocence of Muslims“, which arguably falls under the propaganda category. It has sparked violent protests across the Middle East and the Indian sub continent.

Source: nydailynews.com

The riots sparked by it has even cost the lives of four US diplomats, including Ambassador Chris Stevens in Ben Ghazi, Libya. Though the attacks in Libya and Tunisia are thought to have other reasons as well such as American occupation and attacks in the Middle East, they were certainly sparked by the blasphemy craze.

May I remind you that Muslim community, it is a community nevertheless made out of more than 1.5 billion people around the world, of various ethnic and linguistic backgrounds and cultures, has been hijacked by a bunch of extremist psychopaths which represent their entire image, much to the delight of those who want a conflict on both sides.

Source: Libya Al-Hurra Facebook Page/Huffington Post

Gawker recently raised this point by mocking Newsweek’s Muslim Rage cover by putting together harmless images of common people from the Muslim community around the world and also highlighting the #MuslimRage twitter trend. I found it interesting because I do believe that most of the Muslim community honestly has no representation in the mainstream media and they really are peacefully behaving folks, just like any other community.

I think what we do miss in these violent protests is the fact that hardly 1% of the Islamic world’s population is actively taking part in these protests, answering the generalizations that are usually made about them.

However, it can be very appropriately argued that the lack of criticism of such violence by the rest of the Muslim population makes them as much the part of the problem. That the rest of the population is either too insensitive to respond to these violent events or are simply too afraid to. Good that a peaceful demonstration was held in Libya to apologize for Stevens’ death.

In any case, the violent protesters find the most attention and it would be absolutely incorrect to say that their faith plays no part in that outcome. But by saying this, do we give the rest of the population a clean sheet in terms of tolerating violence and extremism justified by faith?

It is yet another lesson and another opportunity for the Muslims to reform their religion and its practice and to react to such perceived offenses in a more reasonable manner. What they also fail to realize is how much vulnerable they make themselves appear to the West when they are outraged, violently, by even a bit of an image, word or film insulting or ridiculing the Prophet. In this way, literally a 10 year old in the West can stir violent riots all across the Middle East. How fascinating is that.

There is an urgent need for reforms in this religion if it is to survive in the twenty-first century with dignity and respect and I think every member of this community should be worrying about it. Because with the presence of certain of its beliefs, it can hardly be regarded as a respectable and civilized belief system.

Muslims have a lot to think about and also a lot to answer to in this regard, to themselves, if not to anyone else.

Farewell Tribute To Cameron Munter

Source: US State Department

While it sounds rather ridiculous for commoners to be interested in the office of diplomats, I mean what and who comes and goes, there are certain individuals that come across in this profession every now and then which are hard to ignore. One such person has been Ambassador Cameron Munter who has served in Islamabad from October 6, 2010 until he announced his early resignation on May 7, 2012 and left for the United States on July 24, 2012. Charge d’ affaires Richard Hoagland is performing stand-in duties for him.

Now I write this as a Pakistani national and someone who at least aspires to be if not is a citizen of the world. But even regardless of these viewpoints, I see the term of Ambassador Munter, a Californian who loves desi food, in Pakistan rather charming. I know it has been a while since he gave up his position, which happened in July 2012 actually, and this post has been overdue as I have been looking to write about it ever since.

I have observed Ambassador Munter to be by far the most interactive, publicly outreaching and friendly American ambassador in my living memory. The rest of them were either too dull or too cruel or too quiet in public. Of course, they all must have been heard loud and clear in the offices of Pakistani decision makers. Even if there were other ambassadors who had been as much active, certainly no one would have been so much outspoken and accessible to the media.

This is important because his term in Islamabad was marked by one of the most turbulent events in the history of Pakistan-US relations, especially due to the US Navy SEALs raid on Abottabad to assassinate Osama Bin Laden, the secret memo affair, the Raymond Davis killings and the continued drone strikes in the tribal areas, which have become a trademark of the Obama administration warfare.

Not to mention the NATO attack on Pakistan Army Salala checkpost on the Afghan border on November 26, 2011. I recall Munter appearing frequently in popular Pakistani talk shows and expressing his regret over the unfortunate incident while still not using the word “apologize”, which was clearly deliberate, with great emphasis. Tough job. We witnessed that thin line between being sorry and apologizing. Such is the nature of US-Pakistan diplomatic relations.

As a matter of fact, he handled affairs in one of the toughest conditions that a diplomat could ask for, when anti-American sentiment in Pakistan was on the rise. Similar difficulties were faced by his Pakistani counterpart Hussain Haqqani. Here is Munter’s last appearance on Pakistani TV.

Pakistani media had actually been hailing Munter for leaving his office for being disturbed at the continued drone strikes and avoiding an apology for Salala despite the public outrage in Pakistan, which is denied by the US Embassy in Islamabad as he is said to have stepped down for personal reasons, but there has been consistent rumor about that in the media throughout the latter part of his term. Even foreign media reported it, which really makes you wonder about its validity because usually you can safely consider what the State Department is telling you to be lies unless it is about attacking some country.

I am not sure how much a diplomat should be involved with his assignment emotionally, especially when it comes to the military objectives of a campaign, and we are not even sure if Munter was, but I can acknowledge that Munter was apparently more human and more humane of any of the US ambassadors that I have noticed. His public relations were at least, and that is what matters at the end of the day. The general public is least bothered about what goes on behind closed doors.

However, I am not sure if it is necessarily a good thing for a diplomat. I guess in the ruthless and Machiavellian world of diplomacy, you need to focus on your interests and objectives and get the cold hearted kill and go on your own way. I do not doubt Munter’s abilities as a diplomat a bit, but then again there is no reason to believe that he succumbed to his emotions at any time.

But he was certainly sincere in making an attempt to reach out to the people of Pakistan, and to improve bilateral relations.

That is important.

I don’t care if he was fine with the drone strikes or not. I also don’t care if he agrees with Obama’s warfare or not.

But what I care about is his gestures of friendship and I think that must be reciprocated.

Ambassador Cameron Munter, you will be remembered.

I am sure you won’t forget Pakistan.