By Engr. Bilal Awaisi.
Beliefs of individuals as well as nations hold great importance to them. So, blasphemous ideas and acts are not tolerated anywhere, be it developed or developing world. This has been the very nature of human beings. In Pakistan, blasphemy has become one of the most important issues. Blasphemous incidents have witnessed a rise in frequency as well as intensity with the passage of time. As social media has been entrenched in the lives of people, the issue has become increasingly important for each one of them and requires a systematic – individual and collective – reaction. Charles R. Swindoll has rightly said, “Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.”
This reaction needs to be initiated at the individual level. Currently, people are busy in testifying their beliefs through updating their statuses on social media. But, does it absolve them from their obligations? Is this enough as a reaction to such heinous acts? Certainly not! Indeed, they need to walk with talk. If they are testifying that there is no God but Allah, they need to practically submit to the commandments of Allah. If they are saying that Muhammad (Sallallaho Alaiha Wasalam) is the last Prophet of Allah, they need to practice teachings of that Prophet. Actually, they need to return to the religion as it is the only solution to their problems. Their lives should be very much in the same mold as Islam. This is what the current situation demands from them.
Another important step that individuals need to take is trying not to spread blasphemous content. Spreading such content, even for the sake of making people aware, actually serves the cause of blasphemy. The ultimate goal of blasphemers is to make their content reach everyone and by sharing such content, we actually help them. The greater the number of people come in contact with such material, the greater the probability of such material to become less important for them – when more people would continuously come into contact with blasphemy, the worth of their beliefs would decrease for them and they would become used to it, just as they have become used to terrorism and bomb blasts. But blasphemous blasts are more dangerous than terrorist blasts. The former targets lesser number of people at a time but the latter targets people as a whole. They are also dangerous for identity and culture of Pakistanis. When enemy intends to destroy a nation’s identity and culture, it infiltrates into that nation and starts mocking its heroes. If the reaction is not on a par with action, the identity is lost and the nation disappears.
Individuals should focus on fulfilling their duties instead of mere talking about this issue. If a person is student, he should concentrate on his study. If a person is a lawyer, he should practice law honestly. If a person is Qari, he should act in a manner to help people lead their lives according to true Islam. And if a person is “IT expert”, he should master all the skills expected from him. Only honesty with profession can win respect, honor and dignity for them individually and collectively. In the current scenario, hardly any person other than a Chief Justice, a lawyer and his team can be seen doing their duties honestly. Everyone should fulfil his own duties instead of being all talk.
After individual level, there comes the level of state. First of all, state needs to reduce trust deficit between itself and the public. It should calm people down by ensuring them that a proper action would be taken against blasphemous elements. This will reduce anarchy in the country and will help defeat enemy at the front of spreading chaos.
Secondly, State should adopt an integrated approach to this issue. All the ministries and departments concerned should operate collectively so that issue could be efficiently dealt with. Independent working is impeding communication among the state elements. It is causing incoherence in the strategies adopted. The resulting inefficiency is giving dissidents a wide room to succeed in their odious acts.
Thirdly, Issues related to blasphemy should be included under the umbrella of National Action Plan as they have already been termed as a kind of terrorism by one of the courts of Pakistan. Keeping this categorization aside, blasphemy is serving as a cause of promoting extremism. It is also reinforcing the ideology of terrorism. It is provoking people to take law into their own hands. Thus, it needs to be dealt with mailed fist by the state of Pakistan.
Fourthly, state needs to focus on capacity building in the sector of cybercrime. A dedicated department of coordination among various state components like Ministry of Information, Interior Ministry and Federal Investigation Agency should be established – it would deal with cybercrime. Human resource should also be trained in managing social media effectively. It should be enabled to filter out unwanted and harmful material. In this interconnected world, it is not difficult to find someone operating behind the internet if state-of-the-art technology is used. So, it is necessary to ensure capacity building in the cybercrime sector to deal with such issues.
Fifthly, the state needs to educate masses. Social-education should be made compulsory in institutions. Students should be taught how to lead their social lives in a balanced manner. They should also be taught usage of social media for positive and beneficial purposes. Apart from this, mass contact campaigns should be started to help people educate about the use of social media. Celebrities, Stars, Motivational speakers and Politicians should come up in this campaign to affect the psyche of people.
Banning social media is another option for Pakistan. State has legal authority to take this step. But, before executing it, a feasibility report should be prepared measuring benefits of banning social media against those of not banning it. A country can exercise its jurisdiction to root out anything, within its territory, that affects its integrity, ideology and interests. This is certainly not against the freedom of expression. USA banned “Al Jazeera” TV Channel because it considered the channel to be affecting its interests. Thus a precedence of putting a ban on media also exists enabling Pakistan to ban social media websites.
When the matter is looked into through international prism, it is revealed that blasphemy is an issue for not only Pakistan but also for other Muslim countries. So, Muslims as a whole need to react to this concern. It provides them with a reason to unite. A divided and passive approach on this matter would be final indication of their estivation. They would reach the point of no return and devastation would be their ultimate future. So, they should cooperate at different platforms and the best among these can be OIC. It can ensure collective, harmonized and result oriented response. If social media websites are banned in the whole Muslim World, almost 2.14 billion users would fall simultaneously and it would be the biggest setback to owners of the websites. Apart from this, Muslim countries can also cooperate in capacity building regarding management of social media. The key is political will to carry out this joint mission. It could redefine the approach of Muslims towards the World.
Putting in a nutshell, it is high time Muslims returned to their religion, fulfilled their duties honestly and cooperated among themselves. It would not only solve the problem of blasphemy but would also serve as a solution to most of their other individual, national and international problems.
Engr. Bilal Awaisi is BSc Electrical Engineering (UET Lahore) and also a Gold Medalist Pre-engineering. Writes on Political and Social Issues.