Muslim outrage leading to death and destruction in manycountries simultaneously against insults to the Prophet or desecration inwhatever form of the Muslim holy book regardless of its provenance orauthorship is becoming commonplace and occurring with increasing regularity;leading each time to killings, mob violence and extensive damage to property.Nobody seems to be able to control it in practically every Muslim country ornations with size-able Muslim presence as in India. The spontaneousness of theoutbursts whether orchestrated or fueled by the internet actually leads togreater and repeated outrages. The reason being that the perpetrators - moreoften than not fringe elements who are immediately condemned by their owncommunities and respective governments whenever they indulge in theseinsane provocations - are secretly delighted by the mayhem they cause;which in turn leads to copycat actions by like-minded fringe elementselsewhere. Evidently this cycle of mindless insults followed instantaneously byequally mindless violence must stop. Those being angered must realise thatwestern democracies are not in a position to put a stop to such activitiesbecause their laws and mores, however distasteful to outsiders, do not allowfor the curbing of free speech. This is not going to change any time in theforeseeable future. Hence may be the time has to come for the aggrieved partyor parties to look within and not react in the manner that the perpetrators ofthese mindless deeds would want them to react - i.e., to provoke outrage. Thegreater the violence the greater their self-satisfaction over their provocativeacts.
The righteousness of the anger manifested might become questionable,if not untenable, should they look around at what is happening around them. Itmay be recalled that just a few years ago a far worse sacrilege was carried outin the Muslim world. On a scale of 0 to 9 if the offense given by the earliercartoons or the picture that has reportedly been put out on the You Tube (orwherever else) is put at 4 or 5 the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas tips thescale well beyond the maximum 9 on any comparative basis - not that outragescan be compared or quantified. Yet no Budhhist asked for the head of theperpetrators, nor was any Muslim property burned anywhere in the world. NoMuslim was harmed. What is more, no Muslim man, woman or child felt unsafe for onemoment anywhere in the world or was afraid of a backlash fromany quarter. The announcement that the Bamian Budhhas would bedestroyed was made several days before the threat was carried out. Pakistan,where such riots in the past generally spread faster thanelsewhere, had the capacity to intervene decisively to prevent the mostabominable desecration that the world has witnessed in modern times. It did notintervene. Nor did Saudi Arabia or any of the countries where the worst riotingis taking place. In most cases there was stony silence. On the other hand, theulema in India had put the highest price on the cartoonists' heads. Theirprotests spread to other cities in India. However, none of these worthies askedfor the head of the Taliban leadership of the time. There was not a single riotafter the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas. The Muslim world should haverealised that the anguish and gloom caused to the Buddhists in everycorner of the globe, including the Koreas, Japan, China, Mongolia, India, muchof Southeast Asia and several other countries would have been infinitelymore deep than that caused by the offensive cartoons or other such insults byindividuals, whereas the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas was a collectiveaction. There are many denominations whose followers across the world number inthe hundreds of millions or more than a billion. They feel sacrileges,slights and threats to kill (the infidels) as keenly as do Muslims. If they donot react in the fashion of the Muslims it is because they might have actuallymoved up civilisation's ladder. Their religions teach them that everylife, regardless of whether it is that of a believer or non-believer, issacred. The Buddhists who must have been knocked senseless by the sheermagnitude of their loss internalised their suffering and prayed for forgivenessto the perpetrators. There is a lesson in this for Muslims if theywould like to call Islam a religion of peace. Meanwhile,the world while it must put an end to the type of free speech that causes suchgrave offense to other faiths cannot allow itself to be boxed in bya regressive interpretation of the theology of a single denominationjust because it has demonstrated a capacity to activate mass hysteriasupra-nationally.
The writer is the author of Third Millennium Equipoise