The Morality of Firing on Mobs

Source: ryot.org

Source: ryot.org

How would you handle a rioting mob?

Especially when you know for sure that it is going to damage personal property, and possibly harm and kill people.

Would you consider firing on them?

I bet you would if they were coming after your home, and your possessions.

Maybe not, but maybe most of us would.

You know, perhaps we have this political or public morality and private morality in a sense.

You may not be comfortable firing on a rioting mob as a political opinion but might do that, let alone consider doing that, if you are threatened yourself.

I asked myself this question after an angry mob burned down houses of Christian families in Badami Bagh, Lahore.

Now all this sounds a little too simplistic and distant, but I would really like you to see this from a completely personal perspective.

If you cannot imagine this from the viewpoint of a poor woman who lost her TV and washing machine, as well as her very home in the Badami Bagh incident, then consider your own living space under the threat of the riot.

Just picture for a second that you are sitting peacefully in your room, working on your computer and watching TV.  And after a few minutes, everything is gone after a violent mob raided your place. Breaking your computer and TV and setting your place on fire.

Even the thought of it is horrifying. And it is just taken for granted what the families in Badami Bagh would have gone through. Though it is not the only incident in which such tragedies have occurred.

So what would you do if a mob were raiding your place? Would you use violence, or gunfire, against them to stop them?

I know tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons are effective ways to disperse mobs. But what if no such support is available?

Would you fire on them?

While the Badami Bagh case was targeted arson, would you advocate using such force during violent demonstrations?

Would you handle the situation in the same way if you were in the government?

Would justifying it for one case would justify it for others? And then would there be any limit to the use of firearms against rioting or even demonstrating crowds? Which is why I would only support peaceful demonstrations because there is no justification of using violence against it whatsoever.

Or should governments just let rioting mobs run free? Let the crime take place and then arrest offenders afterwards?

If yes, should such an entity be ideally called a government?

Alternatively, is there a justification to take preemptive violent action against crowds “expected” to turn really violent.

These are troubling moral questions to which I guess many people would have different answers for each case, by which I mean public and private opinions. At least I am not sure if I could refrain from deterring them this way.

You just need to picture yourself in the middle of that chaos to really be honestly able to answer these questions.

Pardon me for asking that many questions though. But that’s the trouble with morality. It offers you a lot of questions but very few answers.

In the end, how would you respond if police, Punjab Police to be specific in this case, would do nothing more than evacuate the targeted colony for the rioting mob to burn down, just because they are outraged by blasphemy?

Does that mean that people should resort to using arms on their own to protect their lives and property?

But wait, powerful thugs all around Pakistan carry guns and harass people in the name of security and defense.

Poor old Christian families in Punjab cannot.

Sweeping the Ashes Beneath the Green and the White

Source: Nayyar Afaq/Unknown

Source: Nayyar Afaq/Unknown

Happy Pakistan Day. The Day of the Green and, yes, even the White.

Of talking about Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal and their delusional visions that brought about a humanitarian disaster. A lab with some 180 million lab rats, and I am not even counting those which have passed away.

I don’t want to be a cynic today, though there are few better other occasions. I love the idea of Pakistan Day. But that’s not what I am talking about here. I want to talk about our conservative ideals.

This addresses Pakistanis primarily. Pakistani Muslims and Pakistani Muslim Nationalists.

Those who are proud of their infallible ideology which can never possibly fail when it comes to righteousness and how people should be treated.

The ones with an all-encompassing code of life that covers just about every area of life with great justice and peace.

The ones who have presented the best way to the world to treat those who refrain from believing in their faith even though residing in their domain.

I want them to recall what happened on the fateful days from late February to June 2002 in the Indian state of Gujarat that resulted in the death of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus as per the official figures.

I want them to recall Muslims houses burned by Hindu mobs there with little or no intervention from the police. And I want them to recall how they and all of us had reacted to that, criticizing the Indian state’s failure to protect the minority religious group.

Thankfully not with such drastic consequences, but equally horrifyingly, a mob of angry and pious Muslims, most of them young boys apparently, set fire to the houses and possessions of poor Christians living in Badami Bagh, downtown Lahore because one of their boys was said to have blasphemed against the Prophet.

Source: Express Tribune

Source: Express Tribune

There is something common between a few of incidents in the Gujarat riots and the Joseph Colony riots in Lahore.

The police made no attempt to save the victims.

But then again, this is usually the case historically in the subcontinent. Isn’t it?

Has not Shahbaz Sharif been as complicit as Narendra Modi in his handling of the affair?

Gojra riots and Gujrat riots. Even the letters try hard to separate them.

Yes, is Shahbaz Sharif Pakistan’s Narendra Modi?

Maybe not, not for us to decide maybe and who cares, but what about the role of Punjab police, who are supposed to protect the defenseless Christians?

Oh well, but why complain about it. The only difference however was that Muslims in India are strong enough to fight back against the Hindu mobs, or at least have been known to. Since they have mobs of their own attacking Hindus too.

Though it is actually ridiculously unfair to even come close to compare Gujarat riots to the Joseph Colony incident on so many levels, but the degree of offense can only be made out by humanistic and secular eyes. We are dealing with the absurd and ridiculous over here .

The riots in Gujarat sparked after Muslims set a train containing Hindu pilgrims on fire, after a Muslim girl’s kidnap, while others say it was an orchestrated conspiracy. But neither did the Pakistani Christians do anything as wrong, or that is at least what anyone not a fervent Muslim would think, nor are they strong enough to have even the remotest hope of responding back in anger.

Alright I don’t have to make it too long. The point is clear here.

I want the conservative Muslims of Pakistan to read it and I will try sending out that message in Urdu as well. But while keeping little more odds of staying alive, I can still send out the message to the one or two of the Pakistani Muslim conservatives Pakistani Muslims who happen to stumble upon this blog.

The Pakistani Muslims who would criticize Indian Hindu extremists for harming Muslims would tolerate incidents like Joseph Colony and Gojra riots at home, being as complicit and as protective of the culprits as their similar adversaries across the border.

To my eyes, there is hardly any difference between the two, which is why they hate each other so. And that is the ultimate insult to them.

Source: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

Source: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

But make no mistake about what happened in Joseph Colony. Make no mistake about its horrors and the misery of having your home attacked and your possession and memories burned to ashes and dust.

Home lost, families forced to live under tents or in indefinitely temporary camps, as was or would have been the case with some rendered homeless in Gujarat.

Let it be for possessing the land or whatever political crimes may be the reason behind this incident, the fact remains that the masses acted on their religious beliefs, and we love to protect that part of our faith.

And oh, how terrible this tragedy has been, and how wrong it was and there were only a handful of people doing it and how it should not have happened, would be the answers we have to it. But we wouldn’t want to face what is causing this behavior over and over again. That’s all there is to this matter and nothing more.

Good and evil do not matter anymore.

The key here is not to emphasize how atrocious the Joseph Colony tragedy is, but to tell Pakistani Muslim Conservatives how idiotic they are.