‘Yaum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool’ to be observed tomorrow
By: Ansar Abbasi & Shoaib A Raja
ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday announced that tomorrow (Friday) would be observed as ‘Yaum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (SAW)’ and would be a public holiday to raise a national voice against the anti-Islam film which has rocked the Muslim world and beyond.
It was also announced that President Asif Ali Zardari would raise a voice of protest against the film in his address to the UN General Assembly in New York next week and would seek curbs on such attempts to hurt Muslims.
Sources said that Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has already discussed the issue with President Zardari, who has agreed to take up the issue at the UN General Assembly. The president will leave for New York on September 24 to lead the Pakistani delegation at the UN General Assembly and will address the UN General Assembly on September 26.
The government, it is said, is also considering convening a meeting of Muslim ambassadors stationed in Islamabad for a joint strategy of Muslim states on attacks on Islam and its followers.
Alarmed by the mounting protests within Pakistan and abroad, sources said that the prime minister and the cabinet expressed serious concern and decided to take some proactive steps. Thus, the cabinet decided to observe this Friday as a special day to express the nation’s love for the Holy Prophet (SAW).
Sources said that the majority of the cabinet members expressed their extreme fury over the latest attempt from the West to attack Islam. Indeed, following the ministers’ insistence, it was decided that all agenda items would be dropped to focus on this important issue that had hurt the followers of Islam all over the globe.
It is said that the cabinet endorsed the prime minister’s decision to block YouTube but insisted that Pakistan should also enter into an agreement with the Google administration, like India and Malaysia, for an effective and timely check on such blasphemous sites.
While Pakistan had to block YouTube completely, India and Malaysia promptly blocked only the objectionable video through Google because of an agreement signed between them. Cabinet ministers also urged the need for the early installation of a filtration system by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block the flow of blasphemous and obscene sites for Internet users in Pakistan.
Interestingly, the government had issued in May this year a policy directive to block all blasphemous and pornographic material on the Internet by installing an effective modern filtration system, while ensuring that it did not affect the freedom of information. Following the personal interest shown by Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the then minister for information technology and the Ministry of Information Technology had issued necessary directions to PTA to update its systems for effective monitoring and control of blasphemous and pornographic material.
However, due to bureaucratic red-tape nothing concrete was done to immediately procure the filtration system. The decision to observe ‘Yaum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (SAW)’ on Friday was taken during a special cabinet meeting chaired by the prime minister. “The cabinet deliberated on the film and suspended the routine agenda,” Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira told the media after the meeting.
Kaira said the federal cabinet also adopted a resolution unanimously condemning the sacrilegious act and described it as a move against Islam that had ignited protests across the Muslim world.
“The cabinet observed that such hateful acts may hurt interfaith harmony in the world which would ultimately beget extremism,” Kaira lamented. “It is direly needed that the world community and international organisations take notice of this heinous act, condemn it and discourage recurrence of such acts through legislation and other necessary steps,” the federal cabinet demanded.
The cabinet observed that the whole country was one with the Muslim world and the government would represent its people’s sentiments at any forum and take every step with the coordination of religious scholars and people from other strata of society to protect the dignity of the Holy Prophet (SAW) in the future.
The cabinet members resolved that they believed in the freedom of expression but under its garb, no individual or organisation could be allowed hate speech, writing or footage that might hurt others’ faith and sentiments.
The meeting, however, appealed to the people to maintain peace in their protests. Kaira conveyed the prime minister’s request to the nation to protest peacefully and say special prayers on Yaum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (SAW) to remove all the shortcomings that encourage such vicious elements to defame the Holy Prophet (SAW). On the day, he said, an Ishq-e-Rasool (SAW) Conference would be held at 10 am at the national and provincial levels to convey a message that the hate film hurt sentiments of Pakistani people.
The minister also thanked people from non-Muslim communities for supporting Muslims in these protests as Islam teaches its followers to respect and believe in all the Prophets. He said besides condemnation by the Foreign Office, the National Assembly had also adopted a unanimous resolution to brand the film.
Kaira said the cabinet had also asked President Zardari to raise the issue at the UN General Assembly and a OIC session should also be convened to demand that such acts be permanently restricted. He requested the media to avoid live coverage of the violent protests as it would help violent elements achieve their targets.
Replying to questions, the minister said the cabinet had discussed the proposal of entering into an agreement with YouTube to block only objectionable videos on its website. He said the government had for now blocked YouTube altogether, as the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had no agreement with YouTube to block the required links only. He said that no Muslim could tolerate any sacrilegious material and it was the responsibility of the government of the country where the movie was prepared and uploaded to take strict action against the culprits.
Kaira said that not only the US ambassador in Pakistan, but US ministers and the president had also strongly condemned the film. He also said that there was a proposal to hold a meeting of Pakistani ambassadors to discuss the issue. He also supported the idea to summon the US ambassador to the Foreign Office to lodge a strong protest.
Replying to a question, the minister said that the prime minister would address the ‘Shan-e-Rasool (SAW) Conference’ on Friday.
Meanwhile, the prime minister invited all heads of political parties to join him at the Convention Centre in Islamabad to show solidarity on the occasion of Yaum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (SAW) at 10 am on Friday.