Skip to main content

Opinion: Pakistanis can debunk myths about Islam peacefully

By Aazadi Fateh Muhammad, special to CNN
September 22, 2012 -- Updated 0733 GMT (1533 HKT)
A demonstrator in Islamabad, Pakistan, throws a tear gas shell at riot police during a protest Friday against an anti-Islam film.
A demonstrator in Islamabad, Pakistan, throws a tear gas shell at riot police during a protest Friday against an anti-Islam film.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • There is little public debate in Pakistan, Fateh Muhammad writes
  • She says Islamic scholar seeking modest approach should be more visible
  • Less coverage should be given to hard-line political parties, figures, she adds
  • The biggest problem in the world today is misunderstanding, Fateh Muhammad says

Editor's note: Aazadi Fateh Muhammad is professor of mass communication at Federal Urdu University in Karachi, Pakistan.

Karachi, Pakistan (CNN) -- Most Pakistanis have rejected the defamatory attacks on the profile of Prophet of Islam Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) in the movie "Innocence of Muslims," which has triggered intensive protests and anger in Pakistan along with Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

The government in Pakistan was the first to announce a public holiday and banned YouTube as a mark of protest. But this failed to calm the violent demonstrations and resulting violent mob actions.

The country's big problem is that it suffers from natural disasters, terrorism, crime, poor living conditions and corrupt sociopolitical systems -- but there is little public debate. Erfan Aziz, an academician from Karachi, observed that "the public in Pakistan has remained much oppressed in the past. Even the genuine issues of society were not allowed to be discussed in public. Notifications such as 'avoid political conversations' still may be seen in some public areas."

Aazadi Fateh Muhammad
Aazadi Fateh Muhammad

Many in Pakistan are seeking to convey a message to the international community by promoting mutual respect for each other's faiths. Kulsoom Shah, a Fulbright student, for example says young people must come up with creative ideas to register the hurt feelings that the movie provoked -- but peacefully. Shah said she applauded French students who distributed copies of the Quran in non-Muslim communities.

In this way, productive ways to register feelings can help in debunking myths about Islam and promote it as a religion of peace. The present situation is sensitive indeed and cannot be dealt with in isolation. Islamic scholars seeking a modest approach should be brought forward on the popular media to calm people's resentment, while less coverage should be given to more hard-line political parties and public figures.

Lindsey Boyle, from Ohio University, condemns the movie's offense and its overgeneralized tone. For one, the film does not represent popular U.S. opinion; second, the U.S. government has condemned the movie, so burning the American flag is not necessarily a reasonable reaction.

Furthermore, she believes there are many similarities between Christianity's Jesus and Islam's Mohammed: They were both open-minded, helped the weak, overcame personal struggles and far more besides. The biggest problem in the world today, religiously and culturally, is misunderstanding. People on both sides of this situation simply need to take time to learn about one another. That becomes almost impossible when one side is making an over-generalized, demeaning movie, and the other side is violently protesting it in an overgeneralized way. We need to work to promote positive messages and understanding, above all else.

Anti-American protest in Pakistan

Read about deadly anti-film protests in Pakistan

Pakistan outrage over anti-islamic film

The question about the nature of protest remains a sensitive one, and it's far more difficult to motivate people to follow that in practical ways. Pakistani youth must realize the differences of mass media usage in U.S. society and protest in creative, constructive ways to get the desired results, as aggressive protests not only generate more violence and conflict but also make it easy to lose the true spirit of their cause.

In the present world, human diversity and pluralism must be understood to promote peace and prosperity. We need peace and harmony, and to do this we must show tolerance and give space to each other's differences, be they color, race, creed, religion or nationality in order to promote a friendlier lifestyle around us.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
As a woman whose parents had cancer, I have quite a few things to say about dying with dignity.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
David Gergen says he'll have a special eye on a few particular races in Tuesday's midterms that may tell us about our long-term future.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT)
What's behind the uptick in clown sightings? And why the fascination with them? It could be about the economy.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1301 GMT (2101 HKT)
Midterm elections don't usually have the same excitement as presidential elections. That should change, writes Sally Kohn.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
ADVERTISEMENT