Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Saying 'No' to Blasphemy

On June 1, 2006, the Christian community of Pakistan launched protests against the expected release of the Da Vinci Code in theatres in Pakistan. Four days later, the government banned the movie although the book and the DVD continued to be sold (see reports on IBN Live and BBC News). While announcing the ban, the Culture Minister Ghulam Jamal said that Islam taught respect for all prophets and disrespecting any of them was to disrespect all of them.

Perhaps there was a lesson to be learnt: Muslim clerics had actually encouraged the Christian community to take a stand against the movie that had offended many Christians around the world (at least seven states in India had also banned the film). When the protest was launched, it received active support from Muslim clerics and hence the prominent Pakistani Christian leader Shahbaz Bhatti said that it would go a long way to ensuring sectarian harmony (see Atlas Forum).

This incident stands apart from many others because it is about action and not just talk, talk and more talk. Something happened - something got done.

That is what Pakistan needs to do now: it should offer alternatives through practice and not just preaching. Not only Muslims but many sensible people from all religions are upset about the way the forces of ridicule and darkness have been smashing the bastions of respect for more than a hundred years now. Can we not come up with laws that respect the freedom of expression and encourage it but at the same time also prevent abuse of that freedom for creating dissension and spreading hatred?

We are free. We have a country. We own it - all of us Pakistanis. In our country, we can make any law we want. Let's not wait for Western countries to show us what laws need to be made. Let's lead the world by initiating such beautiful legislation in our own country that other peoples in the world, even in Western countries, feel inclined to follow it.

The world needs such laws and the nation founded by a barrister should be the most well-equipped to take the lead. For that we shall need to understand the issue at hand: freedom of speech. As correctly pointed out by two young readers of the previous post, Free speech doesn't mean that you start abusing and humiliating others. The challenge is to translate this idea into a philosophy that can then be turned into law. At least in Pakistan, it can be done.

یہاں ہر ایک شخص کا بلند تر مقام ہو
مٹیں دلوں سے نفرتیں، سبھی کا احترام ہو
اِس احترام کے لیے ہماری جنگ ایک ہے 

Note: The Urdu couplets mean, "Everyone should be venerated here, there should be no hatred in hearts and everybody respected - for the sake of that respect, our war is a common one."

1 comment:

ReeBz said...

Its the first piece of writing, i read about that competition, which is summarizing the whole issue, with a lesson and a brief history.

I just loved the Urdu couplets at the end of this post.Simply beautiful.

For us all the prophets are equal and have same level of respect.I was extremely hurt when at the official page of that competition i saw one Muslim who was most probably from Pakistan was using bad words for Jesus Christ.Its something seriously horrible.First time i felt, that instead of pointing out others we need to educate our people first, cause each and every one among us is representing Islam and Pakistan when at cyberspace.It is well-said "He who angers you, conquers you".We need to have control on ourselves specially when we are going to communicate with trolls.