“Whatever disgrace we may have deserved, it is almost

always in our power to

re-establish our character.”

-  Plautus

 What happened, last Friday, was unthinkable by the majority of Pakistanis, who firmly believed that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) spread the message of peace, tolerance, harmony and love and not violence. So, those who went on a rampage were either ignorant of Islamic teachings or represented the forces of destruction.

The Islamic and Western worlds have two different value systems; and while religion remains a cornerstone of the life of Muslims, it seems to have almost eroded in the West. However, this does imply that the entire Christian community and people belonging to other faiths don’t possess the same amount of commitment to their religions. It is just that the great value of tolerance taught by Islam is being practiced more by non-Muslims than Muslims.

If we analyse the situation, two aspects emerge out of the Friday protests that were conducted across the country. First, the Muslims in general, and Pakistanis (both Muslims and non-Muslims) in particular, are not prepared to tolerate the ridiculing of Islam; more so, those who under the freedom of speech are trying to justify a blasphemous film. Second, there was complete lack of discipline and the people indulged in an activity that had no justification specifically when they were demonstrating for a noble cause; unfortunately, it has become a hallmark of our lives. The country seems to be at war with itself! Often people, for instance, are seen driving either on the wrong side of the road or through red lights without bothering about the rules. Such acts of lawlessness and indiscipline do not auger well for the country and may lead to anarchic conditions.

Reverting to the main issue. The Pakistani government has rightly proposed that international laws must be framed and implemented to contain such activities, since they generate religious conflicts threatening the future of the world. However, not only state institutions, but also ulema have failed in their responsibility, as they did not guide the people to remain peaceful and demonstrate in a dignified manner. The mere fact that public and private vehicles were torched, petrol pumps set on fire, ATM machines vandalised and, in some cases, private banks looted by the mobs portrayed a negative image ofPakistan. Even the leaders of the mainstream political parties disappeared from the scene, allowing the rudderless crowds to indulge in acts of extreme violence.

While this left deep scars across the landscape, it would be appropriate if lessons are learnt and a coherent policy is formulated to avoid a repeat of what happened last Friday. The basic thing is that people must be educated about such matters and as a society, it is important that we remain tolerant even in the most adverse conditions.

It is not right to damage property or kill people and that too in the name of Islam or the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The government must immediately take into confidence not only the political, but also religious leaders of this country to chalk out a policy in order to avoid similar situations in the future.

If history is any guide, the government and opposition, as well as religious leaders, are expected to sleep on the matter till the time an insane person does something anti-Islamic and leads to another round of frenzied reaction. These are testing times for the political and religious leaders and if they fail to discharge their duties properly, it would lead to the demise of democracy.

Nevertheless, it was good that President Asif Zardari, in his speech at the UN, said: “The highly provocative anti-Islam film had been condemned throughout the world and particularly inPakistanby Muslims and non-Muslims alike. However, the ransacking of public and private property, particularly the places of worship of other religions, was itself an un-Islamic and a highly condemnable act.” One hopes that he will take an initiative on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Government of Pakistan should use the OIC platform as also the UN to highlight the ridiculing of Islam, following it vigorously till the time some substantial action is taken by the international community. If the Muslim world pursues it together, undoubtedly, it will succeed!

  The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television. Email:zarnatta@hotmail.com