I wrote two op-eds on Outlook the past week about the riots against Quran burning and brutal murder of UN staff in Mazar. Below is merger and excerpts of those op-eds.
The horrors of killing UN staff terrified everyone, particularly the expat community of aid workers living in Afghanistan. As an aid worker wrote “it was different than previous fatal attacks” because of the violence against a civilian organization in such a brutal way by angry civilians. Initially it was perceived that the civilian protesters have killed. Later on reports suggested that insurgents had infiltrated the protest rally. It was confrimed by the UNAMA Chief Staffen De Mitsura.
Every other day there is a protest demonstration against some issue in different cities, but rarely it turns violent. In Kandahar, where about 20 people died in two days of violence, the rioters burnt girls’ school, and those “protesting” had a white-flag of the Taliban. While the demonstrations in Herat, Jalalabad and other cities went peaceful.
Some American journalists said President Karzai is responsible for the riots because his condemnation statement brought public attention to the burning, as the international media had ignored Terry Jones. For instance, Fareed Zakaria in his GPS program on CNN criticized Karzai for his statement, saying that “Karzai despite having lived in America and knowing about freedom of expression” made such statement. I think it’s nonsense to blame Karzai. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, and Mullahs there had already made it an infamous news in AfPak region and there were condemnations from Government officials in Iran and some other countries before Karzai spoke about it.
It’s ridiculous that our people react out of extreme anger all because an idiot hate-monger pastor in America, who has mental problem seeking attention, has burnt the holy book. Why such a reaction only in Afghanistan, while the rest of the Muslim countries ignored the pastor? We are always first in reaction whenever some idiot do bigotry in any faraway corner of the world. Actually religion has been exploited for all political agendas during the last 4 decades of war in Afghanistan. Therefore, Afghans are the most responsive and sensitive when it comes to religion. Taliban and other insurgents use such incidents to justify their violence. They issued a public statement calling for further uprising. On the other hand, the attention-seeking Terry Jones is defiant of his act and determined to go further with such actions. His inflammatory acts of bigotry and the misuse of religious sentiments by Taliban to justify their violence, is very beautifully summed up by the NYTimes columnist Nick Kristof in a comment on Twitter saying “The tragedy of the Koran burning and riots in Afghanistan is the way extremists from Florida to Kandahar feed each other.”
While the protest demonstration continued for a week across Afghanistan, Terry Jones’ Quran burning was being defended for “freedom of expression” in some western media outlets. Though I completely believe on “freedom of expression and speech” and burning a book should be one’s private issue. But Terry Jones’ is not a mere act to be defended under the notion of “freedom of expression”. Quran is not just a simple religious book for over a billion Muslims who take it as part of their identity and life.
Burning Quran, which resembles the identity of its believers, is different than criticizing it, which has been done by many previously-Muslim atheists. What Terry Jones does is a senseless act of religious-hatred with purposeful intention of provocation. Burning a book that resembles message of God for its believers is against the notion of “freedom of speech”. If humiliation on the basis of one’s color of skin, language and appearance is considered racism and condemned by majority, why religious-hatred be defended in the guise of “freedom of expression”. People here take religious symbols more important than lives. There was no reaction on the photos of Kill Team, but the country was on fire due to an idiot burning a copy of Quran.
Knowing all this, when someone burns the Quran, we have to see it from different perspective, not just the notion of freedom of speech. Evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber wrote, “knowing the likely consequence means that burning Qurans in Gainesville, or anywhere else, is an act of criminal mischief.” And it was a good move when UK Police arrested senior member of BNP on burning a copy of Quran.
Afghans are the worst reactionary among the people of over 50 Muslim countries. Actually the people here are very fool to be offended with the attention-seeking bigotry of a stupid mental-case pastor Jones. Why to bother with someone who is rejected by majority of his own town? I am sure people here don’t know that locals of Gainesville, Florida, have started kind of a social boycott with Terry Jones. He is being asked to leave the area, for the nonsense and bigotry he has been doing. Many Christian organizations have condemned Terry Jones for burning the Holy Quran. But our folks want him “to be tried”. Protesters chant slogans like “Death to America”. This kind of nonsense here makes me to forget arguing against the misuse of “freedom of expression and speech” in defense of Terry Jones.
The hypocrisy of our society is that we are reactionary to such issues just because they come from the West, though only mental cases like Terry Jones does such bigotry there, while majority are decent people against it. If it is not the Westernophobia, why there is not a protest against insurgents who blow up schools and copies of Quran are burnt. Suicide bombers blowing up in the name of Allah, and reciting the name of Prophet Muhammad before the blast, taking innocent lives, is the worst blasphemy to Islam, but it’s the hypocrisy or fear of our religious clerics and society at large that there is never a mass protest against the insurgents.
But all such hypocrisy and ignorance in our part of the world does not mean western media should defend extremists like Terry Jones. He is not practicing freedom, but provoking religious hatred and should be condemned.