By: Ahmed Quraishi
The real test for President Zardari, who has many good friends in the United States, would have been to ask the US government to control and restrain American hatemongers, who have continued a crude campaign of deliberate insults and humiliation against Islam for several years now. Certainly his confidante Husain Haqqani could have taken up the issue in the US.
YouTube has more pro-Islam and pro-Pakistan content than hate material. The YouTube management did not strike down the anti-Islam American film because the site allows many other videos spoofing Prophets Jesus and Moses [Issa and Musa, peace be upon them] and ridiculing other religions.
You can find a huge reservoir of pro-Islam videos on YouTube. That’s their position. It is also one of the few influential outlets where pro-Pakistan material is available with abundance. Many Muslim individuals and groups are producing intelligent videos to counter the anti-Islam American hate campaign. A Saudi teenager produced and uploaded a beautiful video in English explaining to non-Muslims the endearing aspects of Prophet Mohammad’s personality. But you can’t upload such videos to the site if you ban the site itself. Banning the links would have been a wiser course.
In short, the PPP-led government had no guts to ask the US government to control anti-Islam American hatemongers and instead decided to give our people, who are genuinely hurt because of the film, the YouTube ban lollypop.
Having said this, I make no apologies in emphasising that #MuslimRage [the hashtag created by Newsweek on Twitter] is real, genuine and legitimate. No one likes violence, and it is sad it took senseless violence, including the unfortunate murder of an American ambassador in Libya, for the US government to understand that it cannot act as a silent spectator while a few American hatemongers hijack Washington’s relations with the Muslim world.
Secretary Clinton is right when she says her government is restrained by American laws that allow criticism of religions. But that is not the whole truth. American law, for example, does not outlaw Holocaust deniers.
But US authorities found other legal ways over the years – short of a constitutional amendment – to contain and limit the actions of hatemongers advocating anti-Semitism or denying the Holocaust. Washington was late – too late – but it finally did the right thing by bringing in the producer of the despicable film for questioning.
The said producer had misled his film’s cast into making a hate film and is also wanted for financial fraud in separate cases. There are many legal ways to contain such hatemongers.
The self-styled American hate preacher Pastor Terry Jones sparked riots in Afghanistan last year after his Quran-burning stunt. That anger lingered on until early this year when similar riots erupted against US soldiers and pushed even American-trained Afghan soldiers to kill their allies.
That same lingering anger has now led to a major foreign policy debacle for the United States in a crucial part of the world. This has happened because anti-Islam hate acts originating in the US are no longer isolated incidents but an organised campaign that cannot be ignored.
We should also probe the timing of this latest incident. Al-Qaeda is not the only beneficiary of these spontaneous and heartfelt Muslim protests. The US military and the CIA have huge stakes overseas and this controversy helps both argue in favour of continued American involvement in failed wars, and increased budgetary allocations. There is precedent for US military teaching anti-Islam material to soldiers and whipping up anti-Islam hate.
Last year, the US defeated a Pakistan-led OIC initiative at UN Human Rights Council to ban defamation of religions. In private meetings, American diplomats promised their Pakistani counterparts that the US government would take steps to control anti-Islam hatred.
Washington could have spared itself this mess had it done so. But it is not late. Don’t let your hatemongers – and not just ours – hijack your country and ours into a permanent conflict.