Thursday, April 14, 2011

With Friends Like These, Islam Doesn't Need Enemies

Mohamed Imran lived in Pakistan, and was accused of blasphemy. It's anyone's guess just what he said or did that someone thought was "blasphemous." That's a detail that wasn't included in the charges.

Mohamed Imran was tried - and found not guilty by a Pakistani court.

He was a free man, until some fellows came and shot him. Presumably to finish the job that Pakistan's courts decided to skip.

As I've said before, with friends like these, Islam doesn't need enemies.

Pakistan isn't the only frightfully Islamic country where weirdly anachronistic customs (in my opinion) are enforced. Saudi Arabia has been a fairly regular source of 'I am not making this up' incidents. And a few years ago Sudanese authorities were defending Islam against a blasphemous - you can't make this sort of thing up - teddy bear. (November 28, 2007)

Islam, Muslims, and Getting a Grip

After those first five paragraphs, I might be expected to launch into a diatribe against 'those Muslims.'

That's not gonna happen.

I've made the point, often, that not all Muslims are terrorists. (August 9, 2007) Any more than (this isn't an exact parallel) all Euro-Americans are white supremacists.

Assuming that 'they're all Muslims' is - in my considered opinion - a huge over-generalization. Also profoundly unhelpful, and that's almost another topic. (December 29, 2007)

What happened to Mohamed Imran reminded me of the sort of incident that occurred occasionally in my youth, here in America. Long before Timothy McVeigh and a few others killed all those folks in Oklahoma city, the Ku Klux Klan was protecting America from blacks, Jews, and people like me.

I'm a practicing Catholic: which may not mean what you've read in the papers. I'll get back to that, briefly.

The reason I'm citing the Klan in this post is that, like Al Qaeda and (probably) the anonymous killers in yesterday's news, the Klan said that they were protecting their country from bad people.

Sadly, the Klan gave Christianity a public relations problem here in America. I discussed this in another blog:
"...Earlier in the 20th century, the KKK had used burning crosses as a sort of propaganda weapon against people they didn't approve of....

"...Most - many, anyway - Americans probably know that the various iterations of the KKK weren't all that happy with black people being free. Or being around, for that matter.

The KKK's Attitude Toward Catholics, Jews, and Other 'Furriners'

What isn't as obvious to someone immersed in American culture is the Klan's attitude toward Jews, Catholics, and other people who weren't just like them. (Jackson 1992 ed., pp. 241-242. Jackson, Kenneth T. (1967; 1992 edition). 'The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915-1930.' Oxford University Press, as cited in a Wikipedia article)

"I would be upset about white supremacists' expressed hatred toward blacks, even if that were the only group they despised.

"But I think it's okay to point out that some cliques of 'real Americans' are none too well-disposed toward other groups, too...."
(A Catholic Citizen in America (January 22, 2010))
Like I said, I'm a practicing Catholic: which, in the context of Mohamed Imran's death, is relevant to this post. I take my faith very seriously. I think I understand the emotions experienced by folks who think that someone blasphemed.

That does NOT mean that I condone killing people who don't conform.

Even if I hadn't grown up in America, and learned about freedom of religion from the then-contemporary culture, I'd believe that religious freedom is important.

The Catholic Church says that religious freedom is important. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109) It has to do with free will - and that's a topic for another blog.

Pakistan, Poverty, and Assumptions

When I read about Mohamed Imran's exoneration - and execution - I also read what the article's author seems to think is at the root of the trouble in Pakistan: "generations of poverty, decades of what many see as government ineptitude and years of foreign intervention."

He's probably right, to an extent.

"Generations of poverty" probably won't help folks get a global, cosmopolitan perspective - but wealth is no guarantee of behavior, either. Which seemed to perplex old-school journalists a few years back. (July 3, 2007)

I don't doubt that many Pakistanis are fed up with the politicos who allegedly run their country: I'm none too pleased with the lot who's in charge, here in America. And that's almost another topic.

The "years of foreign intervention" may be a factor, too: but I suspect that even if all the Yankee imperialists, or whatever, left Pakistan today - folks like Mohamed Imran would still be killed now and then, when some 'defender of Islam' got in a snit.

Here's an excerpt of the article that got me started writing this post:
"Mohamed Imran had been accused, jailed, tried and cleared: if anything, society owed him a debt as a man wrongfully accused.

"But his crime was blasphemy. He was meant to have said something derogatory about the prophet Mohammed, so in Pakistan justice worked a little differently.

"Two weeks after he returned to his small patch of farmland on the rustic outskirts of Islamabad, his alleged crime caught up with him.

"Two gunmen burst into the shoe shop where he was sat talking to a friend. Imran tried to duck, to seek cover behind the man next to him -- terrified so greatly for his own life that he perhaps forgot about those around him....

"...Now Ikram [Mohamed's brother] has only his brother's unmarked grave to visit, next to the plot of land close to what was once the source of Mohamed Imran's livelihood. This farmland no longer feeds his family, who have moved away to live under the charity of a friend. The threats remained.

"We found his daughter, four-year old Kazma who knew her father was dead but somehow felt he would come back. His wife was in tears, but remarkably maintained that the blasphemy laws were important as they protect the Muslim faith. It was hard to tell whether she believed that or was speaking out of self-preservation.

"Two high-profile politicians have this year been assassinated for their criticism of the blasphemy laws: Punjab governor Salman Taseer and minorities minister (and Christian) Shahbaz Bhatti....

"...The curious part about this blasphemy case -- and many other such convictions and allegations under the controversial law -- is that they do not specify what the accused is meant to have said.

"The first complaint delivered to the police in 2009 refers to a conversation Imran allegedly had with another man in a cafe, but says the exact blasphemous phrase cannot be repeated as that too would be an act of blasphemy....

"...As soon as we got out of the car near the mosque and showed our cameras, tempers frayed. They didn't care why we were there, they just saw us as outsiders, perhaps American spies.

"We left promptly, ever more aware of the growing rage on Pakistan's ordinary streets, fueled by generations of poverty, decades of what many see as government ineptitude and years of foreign intervention."
Somewhat-related posts:
News and views:


Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Brian I deleted yr comment by mistake.. Can u resend it please?Can we leave the "squirt" bit out?

Brian H. Gill said...

Jackie Parkes MJ,

I think that was your Leadkindlylight blog - good post, BTW. (I got a post topic out of one of the comments there: " 'EF,' 'OF,' Jargon, and Making Sense," A Catholic Citizen in America (April 21, 2011))

I've left another comment - more-or-less similar to the one that got deleted. *Thanks* for asking me to re-post, and congratulations of finding one of my blogs. I'm not at all sure that I could have done the same, in your position.

Finally, my more obviously-Catholic blog is A Catholic Citizen in America.

Again, quite sincerely, thank you for the chance

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.