Calling all Pakistanis

on Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thomas L Friedman

New York: On February 6, 2006, three Pakistanis died in Peshawar and Lahore during violent street protests against Danish cartoons that had satirised the Prophet Mohammad. More such mass protests followed weeks later. When Pakistanis and other Muslims are willing to take to the streets, even suffer death, to protest an insulting cartoon published in Denmark, is it fair to ask: Who in the Muslim world, who in Pakistan, is ready to take to the streets to protest the mass murders of real people, not cartoon characters, right next door in Mumbai?
After all, if 10 young Indians from a splinter wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party travelled by boat to Pakistan, shot up two hotels in Karachi and the central train station, killed at least 173 people, and then, for good measure, murdered the imam and his wife at a Saudi-financed mosque while they were cradling their two-year-old son — purely because they were Sunni Muslims — where would we be today? The entire Muslim world would be aflame and in the streets.
So what can we expect from Pakistan and the wider Muslim world after Mumbai? India says its interrogation of the surviving terrorist indicates that all 10 men came from Karachi, and at least one, if not all 10, were Pakistani nationals.
It seems to me that the Pakistani government, which is extremely weak to begin with, has been taking this mass murder very seriously, and, for now, no official connection between the terrorists and elements of the Pakistani security services has been uncovered.
At the same time, any reading of the Pakistani English-language press reveals Pakistani voices expressing real anguish and horror over this incident. But while the Pakistani government’s sober response is important, and the sincere expressions of outrage by individual Pakistanis are critical, one is still hoping for more. I am still hoping — just once — for that mass demonstration of “ordinary people” against the Mumbai bombers, not for my sake, not for India’s sake, but for Pakistan’s sake.
Why? Because it takes a village. The best defence against this kind of murderous violence is to limit the pool of recruits, and the only way to do that is for the home society to isolate, condemn and denounce publicly and repeatedly the murderers — and not amplify, ignore, glorify, justify or “explain” their activities.
Sure, better intelligence is important. But at the end of the day, terrorists often are just acting on what they sense the majority really wants but doesn’t dare do or say. That is why the most powerful deterrent to their behaviour is when the community as a whole says:“No more.What you have done in murdering defenceless men, women and children has brought shame on us and on you.”
Why should Pakistanis do that? Because you can’t have a healthy society that tolerates in any way its own sons going into a modern city, anywhere, and just murdering everyone in sight — including some 40 other Muslims — in a suicide-murder operation, without even bothering to leave a note. Because the act was their note, and destroying just to destroy was their goal. If you do that with enemies abroad, you will do that with enemies at home and destroy your own society in the process.
“I often make the comparison to Catholics during the paedophile priest scandal,” a Muslim woman friend wrote me. “Those Catholics that left the church or spoke out against the church were not trying to prove to anyone that they are anti-paedophile... They wanted to fix a terrible problem” in their own religious community.
We know from the Danish cartoons affair that Pakistanis and other Muslims know how to mobilise quickly to express their heartfelt feelings, not just as individuals, but as a powerful collective. That is what is needed here.
Because this kind of murderous violence only stops when the village — all the good people in Pakistan, including the community elders and spiritual leaders who want a decent future for their country — declares, as a collective, that those who carry out such murders are shameful unbelievers who will not dance with virgins in heaven but burn in hell. —

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