After the success of our inaugural issue of “The Rationalist Pakistan”, the first online magazine of Pakistan that seeks promotion of “rationality and humanism“ based socio-political discourse , here we are with the second issue of our e-mag. With over 500 online subscribers of the first issue and a very good response from all over the world, our spirits are very high. But we are aware that without continued support of all our readers and like-minded people we cannot achieve our desired levels of success. We want to remind our valued readers again that RSOP is a purely charitable organisation and this magazine, from contributors to the editors, is the product of selfless voluntary work. This in itself is an admirable novelty as the e-mag brings together shared dreams and dedications of all rationalists, whether they belong to Pakistan or not.
The ability to rise above our narrow country specific identities is a giant leap towards a better tomorrow shaped by feelings of mutual respect and tolerance. A tomorrow, where humanism reigns supreme and where the flowers of various faiths and identities add colour to the vase of one world and where discords and hatred give way to concerns for human dignity. Over past few months we saw occurrence of events that posed serious challenges to human reason. From the high claims of pseudoscientific inventions to the recent episodes of violence in Muslim world, the conflict between reason and sheer emotionalism continues unabated.
This issue of The Rationalist Pakistan contains some material on ‘ blasphemy of science’ in Pakistan. But of course the blasphemy that has shaken the entire Muslim world, and especially Pakistan, had its epicentre thousands of miles away in the United States. A 13 minutes trailer of a blasphemous movie made by an Egyptian-American (sometimes wrongly assumed as a Jewish- American) triggered a reaction that soon turned into a massive tremor. The actual film was never released and was only once shown in a rented theatre to a gathering of less than 10 people. The film was overdubbed by the producer without the knowledge of the actors working in the film. The man behind the movie, Nakoula B. Nakoula who produced the movie with a pseudonym of Sam Becile was arrested on 27th of September, 2012 by FBI, on criminal charges of spreading hate speech, misleading people by a pseudonym and offending his probation conditions as he was on probation from two other criminal offenses that he had committed in the past.
The accused claimed to have written the script of the movie while he was in jail undergoing sentences in connection with earlier offences. Hate–mongering is often a symptom of a diseased mind and the accused is no exception. The profiling of the main character behind the detestable movie clearly shows a criminal mind who used deception and malice in order to incite violence by spreading hatred and ill-feelings among various sections of the international community. Earlier the movie had proved a damp squib and its release in July proved a non-event. However when its trailer was uploaded to the youtube with Arabic subtitles in September the result was different.
The sudden provocation was utilised by anti-US militants in Libya resulting in the murder of American Ambassador in Libya and loss of life and property. The greatest mayhem was witnessed in Pakistan where the anti-movie rallies devoured over thirty people including 7 members of Christian community. Two churches and a Hindu temple were also burnt by anangry mob. Needless to say the whole episode brings home the bitter truth that peace of our lives can easily be torn to pieces by forces of dogma and blindfolded beliefs. Abusing the right of ”freedom of speech“ the act of producing the offensive film is an attempt by a hate-monger to cause wilful offence and thus ignite communal warfare. By changing his name and deceiving his movie crew, he was fully aware of his motives and also clearly anticipated the reaction the film would generate. In response the reaction in the Muslim world was also not reasonable.
Instead of peaceful protests the angry mobs burnt the properties of their own people, took lives of innocent people who had by no means any affiliation with the person behind the movie. No government took the responsibility of patronising the act of Nakoula, still their officials were attacked and killed. At first the person behind the movie was wrongly accused as an American-Jew, however later it was not only proved wrong but found to be embarrassing for Muslim World when the person’s lineage was traced back to Egypt. The arrest of Nakoula was also not given proper coverage in the media and it did not appear much in the public discourse of the Muslim Clerics who led the rallies and protests. The saddest part is that in response the religious places of minorities were burnt and their people were killed. Holy books including Quran were also burnt by the Muslim rioters in places like Mardan.
The question we need to ponder upon is if a person in any nook and corner of the world commits an act which another group considers offensive what should be the best way of lodging protest? Also we need to ask ourselves if burning religious books of other communities can restore sanctity of our holy personalities or is more a tit for tat reaction which we see in cases of honour killing in all tribal societies? Is blasphemy the right response to blasphemy? No doubt this is a very sensitive topic as many faith communities measure the strength of their faith by ferocity of their response but rationality demands a truthful, honest and in real terms “faithful” introspection over this issue. Only this way, the message of tolerance, goodness and peace can be spread in the world.