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Religious scholars declare Pakistani protests un-Islamic
Islam calls for protection of property and human life, scholars say
By Hasan Khan
ISLAMABAD – September 21 protests in Pakistan against an anti-Islam film resorted to completely un-Islamic acts like killing and looting, religious scholars said.
“The way people expressed their anger on Friday is totally un-Islamic,” Maulana Rahat Hussain, a former senator and senior leader of Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam, told Central Asia Online.
The ransacking of public or private property is un-Islamic and violates the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), agreed Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, who runs a seminary in Peshawar and is linked to the Islamist political party Jamat-e-Islami (JI).
“It is obligatory on every Muslim to protect life, honour and property of fellow Muslims,” Chitrali said while quoting from the sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). “As taking blood (life) of a human being is forbidden in Islam, so is (taking) property and honour.”
On September 21 – a day the government designated as Yaum-i-Ishq-e-Rasool (Day of Love) – protests about the film “Innocence of Muslims” quickly got out of hand and turned violent. Clashes with law enforcement left 23 people dead and 200 injured.
At least five banks and five cinemas were burnt in Karachi and Peshawar. Vandals hit a mobile phone market in Karachi, where a hospital came under attack and restaurants were burned, media reports said.
Mobs nationwide, ignoring Islamic teaching, ransacked public property; looted business centres; and destroyed shops and petrol and compressed-natural-gas pumps, costing the economy billions of rupees.
Weekend protests in Athens, Turkey and Serbia continued to showcase Muslim displeasure over the internet film, but those demonstrations were mostly peaceful.
In the days since a trailer for the film appeared online, at least 49 people have been killed worldwide, including US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and several others in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on September 11.
While Muslim scholars and others say the people have a right to protest, they have broadly condemned the fact that the protests have turned violent.
Revulsion among scholars
Islam and the way (Sunna’h) taught by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) forbid destruction of property for any reason, Rahat said.
“A true Muslim shall protect the properties and lives of fellow Muslims at all costs,” Rahat said. “In Sharia, it is obligatory on every Muslim to protect lives and properties even of the believers of other faiths and their places of worship.”
The Friday protests were steered by raw emotion, not religious sentiment, he said.
“In Islam you have the right to protest but no right to damage property,” Rahat said.
Islam is a religion of peace, brotherhood and respect for the law, agreed Dr. Maulana Raghib Naaemi, a religious scholar and head of a seminary in Lahore.
“Islam never instigates believers to behave violently,” he said. “Instead, it asks for respect and decency in public behaviour.”
Chitrali, who is also the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa head of Jamiat-ul-Itihad-ul-Ulema – a wing of JI religious scholars – condemned the vandalism and destruction by anti-film protesters.
“We have the right to protest the shameful act of filmmakers but no right to destroy properties of other human beings,” Chitrali told Central Asia Online.
A widely circulated Urdu-language text message captured public sentiment.
“Wah Pakistan wah…Ishq-e-Rasool k pe Atish-e-Nimrod saja de. Dil Dukhaya gheron ne awr aag apno ko laga di.” (What a surprise that, in the name of love for the prophet, you start the proverbial fire of Nimrod [a king who confronted Ibrahim]. Heartbroken by others, you set on fire your own people.)
“The day (Friday) was marked by total anarchy from Peshawar to Karachi as violent crowds were ruling in the streets in absence of state authority,” Zaigham Khan, a social anthropologist affiliated with the Islamabad-based NGO Civic Action Resources, told Central Asia Online.
The government, however, urged the nation to remain peaceful during a peace conference in Islamabad September 21.
Certain forces encouraged jihadi elements and organisations to whip up anti-Western sentiment, Zaigham said. “Already these people (the anti-West lobby) have lost many options, and this was a golden opportunity for them.”
However, the government denied the anti-Western forces considerable momentum by declaring September 21 a holiday, Zaigham said, referring to the closure of schools, offices and public transport.