EDITORIAL: Hate comes knocking again - Thursday, March 24, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\24\story_24-3-2011_pg3_1

The seeds of hate and conflict are being sown deep and strong and are entrenching themselves all over the world, even in places typically known as centres of tolerance and multiculturalism. Pastor Terry Jones, made notorious back in September last year for his bid to burn copies of the Holy Quran on the anniversary of 9/11, has made true on his claim to fame. Jones supervised the burning of a copy of the Holy Book after holding a ‘trial’ where he and his equally delusional flock of some 30 followers found the Quran ‘guilty’ of crimes against humanity. The whole episode sounds absurd and would have otherwise been easily dismissed as the actions of a madman. Unfortunately, in the current political and religiously fuelled climate of the world, such acts can lead to devastating consequences. As usual, Pakistan has been especially vocal in condemning this desecration and the president himself has voiced his anger and concern over the issue during his address to the joint session of parliament. He has also advised that the UN address this matter. The US embassy in Pakistan has wasted no time in condemning this action. It is expected that a chain reaction of condemnation, anger and objections will pour out of the Muslim world — such defilements cannot and will not be tolerated, no matter what the religion, no matter what the nation.

At the same time, Lahore has witnessed another incident of hate speech and mob mobilisation that could have gone horribly wrong. In the Badami Bagh district of inner city Lahore, hardline clerics accused members of the Full Gospel Assembly Church of burning a copy of the Quran after finding some burnt pages in a garbage heap in the area. There was no proof of foul play by the church community but our fanatic clerics wasted no time in targeting the minorities in the area. Hundreds of people gathered to teach the Christians a lesson (apparently Gojra-like attacks are our idea of retribution) but, thankfully, the local police intervened in time to disperse the mob and avert a situation that could have turned savage and deadly.

As is evident, incitement, no matter where it comes from, either from the likes of Pastor Terry Jones or the likes of our neighbourhood clerics — both from opposite directions — can be dangerous and tantamount to stoking conflict and animosity across the globe. It must be remembered by all that elements such as these aim to promote nothing more than hate to fulfil their own agendas. Here in Pakistan, hardliner elements are looking to gain political mileage once again after the many gains they made during the blasphemy laws issue and the assassination of Punjab Governer Salmaan Taseer. It has become all too easy now for them to point fingers at anyone, particularly minorities, and accuse them of blasphemy without fear of retribution. The government, especially in Punjab, must take all steps to curb this vicious cycle of hate begetting hate and sermons that can inculcate a culture of violence and intolerance. We cannot afford more religious ‘cleansing’ in the name of faith.

At the same time, the US must also clamp down on the likes of Terry Jones. If anti-Semitism is not tolerated, there is no excuse to allow men like the pastor to get away with such distasteful provocation. The Muslim world will always condemn such insane acts. It is, however, recommended that Muslims the globe over do not give Jones what he wants, and that is an overreaction. The man and his acts ought to be ignored; when importance is not awarded him, his mission will remain unfulfilled. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: A fractured coalition

The US and its allies are under a lot of pressure just days after their military intervention in Libya. US President Barack Obama is finding it difficult to defend his country’s involvement in yet another war, even if it is his first. “Unless he [Gaddafi] is willing to step down, then there are still going to be potential threats towards the Libyan people and we will continue to support the efforts to protect the Libyan people,” said Obama. “But we will not be in the lead.” The US’s reluctance is for obvious reasons. One, the US is not well liked in the Muslim world, especially after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Attacking another Muslim country is bound to increase the anti-American sentiment in all Muslim countries. Two, the US is already overstretched — financially and militarily — in Afghanistan and Iraq. The American public is not in favour of another war given war weariness and the global recession’s impact on the US economy. As if the US does not have enough problems convincing its public, now there are fractures in the coalition as well. China, Russia, Germany, India and many other countries have opposed the military strikes in Libya. The Arab League, too, is now opposing the bombing. A political row over Russian Prime Minister Putin’s remarks critical of the intervention has broken out with his own President Medvedev. It must be said that these critics should have thought of the end result when they abstained from the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on Libya.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, on the other hand, seems to have played his cards well. “This assault...is by a bunch of fascists who will end up in the dustbin of history,” said Gaddafi about the western strikes. Maybe there was a method in his madness when he delivered a blood-curdling speech against the Libyan rebels just before the UNSC resolution. Gaddafi’s forces have been quite successful in stopping the rebel forces from advancing from Benghazi westwards. Foreign forces have launched strikes near Misrata, a rebel-held city, while Gaddafi’s forces are attacking the border city of Zintan.

Qatar’s air force has arrived in the coalition forces’ base in Crete but any Arab country that joins the international forces may not be able to escape the wrath of the Arab people. For all intents and purposes, it seems that the foreign intervention may enable Gaddafi to restore his battered reputation as an Arab nationalist and anti-imperialist. The fissures in the coalition may come back to haunt the west. It would be better if the west stops these attacks and lets the Libyan people decide their own future. *

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