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 Ch urch 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. – Dailytimes