Religious provocation

It seems the film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ is the latest reason for demonstrations against the US. As usual, the media has simplified things:

In Libya, the video probably had nothing at all to do with the attacks. In Egypt, it was probably little more than a convenient way to add some extra energy to a 9/11 protest that had been planned long before. This had the intended effect, of course, and now the video really is at the center of the ongoing protests. But it’s still just a pretext. In and of itself, it’s probably not worth all the ink that’s been spilled on it.

In every country around the world there are people who make their living by saying inflammatory things (think of talk radio in the US, this is a huge industry). In countries that aren’t well off and/or are run by autocrats, this is amplified in two ways: the stakes are raised because there are many more people who have legitimate reasons to be angry and are looking for an excuse; the government often involves itself to either use the protests as an excuse to clamp down on the populace (giving credibility to the protests) or help direct the protests as a way to get people to blame other people for problems in the country.

This case in Pakistan is a perfect example:

The girl, who medical officials say is 14 years old, was arrested Aug. 16, shortly after hundreds of angry Muslims surrounded her house, and accused her of burning pages from the Quran, an act punishable by life in prison.

and the reasons are clear here:

But in a sudden turn-around, police arrested a cleric after a follower from his mosque accused him of stashing pages of a Quran in the girl’s bag to make it seem as if she burned them. He allegedly planted the evidence to push Christians out of the neighborhood and is now being investigated for blasphemy himself. He has denied the allegation.

It’s obvious that this ‘cleric’ wants power. It’s also obvious why this type of stuff is tolerated in Pakistan–there’s a lot of anger against the government because of the many, large problems in the country. The government doesn’t want to add another reason for some people to work against the government and allowing this is an easy target, that isn’t the government, for the general anger of the people.

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