Violent protests: Islam taught us better

Published: September 20, 2012

Americans are truly magnanimous. I've seen them teary-eyed as they hear the stories of our Prophet’s (pbuh) character. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Sir, it was 1995, North Medical Ward of Lahore’s Mayo Hospital, where you famously said in your English-Punjabi accent,

“Putter ji, batti uthay balo, jithay hanaira howay”

(Son, light a candle where it’s dark).

You didn’t want your students to go abroad after completing medical school. You wondered what difference we will make in America, where, compared to Pakistan, there were abundant doctors; where there was so much light.

I left, however, as I had no choice, sir. Yet you had a point ─ a point that haunted me whenever I earned a new degree, another publication, or an accolade.

For years, the praise of my patients from New Jersey reminded me of the prayers of my patients from Old Anarkali. Mothers in America reminded me of my own mother in Pakistan.

“Is she waiting to see a doctor while her own son is treating patients in a foreign land?” I thought.

In healthcare, though, rationalisation comes fast. I quickly realised that regardless of who my patients were – a Pakistani boy, an American woman, a Spanish farmer, a Jewish rabbi or a transgender atheist – the face of pain and suffering is the same.

A plethora of enlightened doctors serving in our small community hospital, however, were an affirmation of your statement. It was all light, until one day two planes crashed in the World Trade Centre and pockets of dark ignorance about Islam and its Prophet (pbuh) started emerging in America. TV, radio, magazines, books, and the anonymous walls of the internet succumbed to a dark attack on my Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) character.  Some were suggestive, others were direct.

Suddenly, light and darkness had new meaning to me.

Pakistan was illuminated and dark. It was illuminated with the love of the Prophet (pbuh) by virtually everyone (I refuse to believe that any Pakistani willfully commits blasphemy against him), regardless of religious sect or affiliation. Yet, it was dark with the atrocities committed against innocent citizens in the guise of blasphemy laws.

America was dark and illuminated. Dark, in places, with a barrage of hostility aimed at the Prophet’s (pbuh) character by many twisted individuals; yet it was illuminated with the notion of free speech for all.

I know why people don’t confront the darkness of blasphemy laws in Pakistan – they’d be killed. But it beats me why a huge majority of the three million plus American Muslims would remain indifferent to this darkness of true blasphemy in the US.

There is no justification for violence; none whatsoever. American Muslims could use their freedom of expression in a responsible fashion to light a candle, yet you won’t see even 300 Muslims peacefully protesting against such planned attacks.

That comes across as a double standard, sir.

Are Muslims wrong in Pakistan or are we wrong in America?

Sir, I am happy to report to you that on this topic, my friends and I are lighting candles of mutual understanding in America. It was not possible for us to witness one sinister attack on our Prophet (pbuh) after another and do nothing. We are busy educating the American masses about the exemplary life of our Prophet (pbuh) by writing for the newspapers, giving courses on Islam in colleges, and most importantly, by trying to emulate our Prophet’s (pbuh) character of love, humility and forgiveness.

I know a majority in Pakistan dislike America, but this is a great country. The masses are truly magnanimous. I have seen them teary-eyed as they hear the stories of our Prophet’s (pbuh) character.

I admire you, sir Dr Faisal Masud. I have worked with world’s top notch physicians in America, but I have not seen a teacher and clinician of your calibre. Shine on Sir and  keep telling your current and future medical students to light a candle in the dark but please don’t stop them from exploring the earth. There are pockets of darkness everywhere.

Read more by Faheem here or follow him on Twitter @Faheem

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Faheem Younus

Faheem Younus

The writer is clinical associate professor at University of Maryland School of Medicine, USA. The author can be followed @Faheem twitter.com/#!/FaheemYounus

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Mehreen

    Totally Agree with you Sir :) Hope Muslims will look into the life of Prophet pbuh and Learn what should be done if anyone will Insult him Pubh ever, rather than what our local mullahs and country law ask us to doRecommend

  • Pakistani 786

    Fantastic piece.

    Yes, bad speech should be confronted with more of the good speech. Not by Blasphemy laws. We have already seen the outcome of that strategy.

    And yes, Muslims in America, particularly those from Pakistan, practice a double standard. American constitution allows them to go and protest – peacefully. Yet they prefer to earn a paycheck rather than show the same passion that their brothers are now showing in Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave.Recommend

  • Parvez

    This would never happen but hypothetically speaking if you were asked to chose between your religion and your country (USA) which would you chose ? Be honest.
    The same question was answered in Pakistan by many, as ‘I am first a Muslim then a Pakistani’. Is it because Pakistan does not have as much to offer as the USofA or is it double standards or as I like to call it ignorance ? Recommend

  • Ahmad

    Islam is a religion of peace. We should practice it too Recommend

  • Ahmed Khan

    Good one! Keep em coming! This worlds needs to hear this kind of voice and reasoning.Recommend

  • Maryam Tahir

    Really admirable, Sir. Hope Pakistani Muslims shows reality of Islam in better way instead of violence. They should realize that burning their own country would do nothing.Recommend

  • Ammar

    @Parvez:
    If you think about it, it is not a difficult question. Religion is personal choice to you. You are free to believe what ever you want and no one can force you or no one knows what is in your heart. Your question is what if there is a conflict between your believe and your country , which one you pick ?
    The answer is actually a simple one according to Quran. Leave that place. Earth is big you will find a place. The life of Holy Prophet shows the same example when he migrated to Madina.

    I am a Muslim, I am Pakistani and on my path to becoming an American. And there is no conflict in my mind about any of these three identities. I have come to this understanding by my faith. Recommend

  • Midhat

    Now this is the required approach. We shouldnt be inndifferent and remain silent on what is wrong and YRecommend

  • Midhat

    Now this is the balanced approach we need! if educated Muslims remain indifferent, the radical violent mobs will paint the picture of Islam. The best way is to educate the West, make them realize that freedom of speech should have its limitations and should be exercised in a responsible way! At the same we need to educate our masses that it is necessary to protest, but in a civilized manner.Recommend

  • Touching piece, very enlighteningRecommend

  • san

    “I know a majority in Pakistan dislike America, but this is a great country”.
    Pakistani do know how great America is. Give them American visa they would happily clean their toilets. Recommend

  • hassan

    ” The masses are truly magnanimous. I have seen them teary-eyed as they hear the stories of our Prophet’s (pbuh) character. ”

    The above lines prove that the average American is really stupid. That is why he goes on giving us millions of dollars in aid – from his hard-earned money – so that we can chant ‘Death to America’ ! Recommend

  • Najmie Hafiez

    Great piece! My american friends/co-workers always want to know that why the Pakistani-Americans not rise and be visible condemning the violence in Pakistan! I have no answer!Recommend

  • http://comments Sultan Ahmed

    Desecration of our true and last prophet,at any cost not acceptable.
    United Nations shouldn’t become silent spectator,it is indispensable
    for this world organization to move forward and safe the people’s killing
    by enacting a law according to which no one can desecrate any prophet.

    Conspirators must be hanged who are playing with blood of innocent people
    in form of making film or printing cartoons of highest profile honorable personalities.

    Freedom of speech is an old promise,it need freshness with respect of the prophet
    Mohammed.(pbuh) in this way gulf can be bridged between the nations having
    different faith.Recommend

  • http://comments Sultan Ahmed

    Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil
    on the fire??Recommend

  • jari

    I agree with Fahim, I have drunk from the same water as Fahim did. Yes Faisal Masood was my teacher too. He is wonderful. I fully agree with response to ignorance is education. yes ignorance of Americans about Holy Prophet PBUH is to educate them about noble teachings of the Prophet. One teaching is forgiveness and also overlooking and also forgetting. These three things can make an enemy into friend. If the Muslims behave normally and remember teachings of Holy Quran, then there will not be any film or cartoons because they will know it will not affect Muslims. They will come to know that spit on the sky falls on its own. Recommend

  • Gratgy

    The sheer stupidity of it all amazes me.

    To protest against a film by someone in the US, Pakistani muslims are burning their own cities down and then will go begging to the US and US institutions for money for the repairs.Recommend

  • Mustapha Dawood

    To my fellow Muslims in Pakistan,

    I am a Muslim and an American. I embraced Islam after reading the Quran and reading about the life of Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him. How many times was he insulted, abused, disbelieved, and even hurt? Yet, he responded with mercy.

    When he went to Taif he was abused, insulted and stoned by the people. An angel of Allah came to him and said “ “Oh Prophet (SAW), if you want Allah (SWT) has willed that you may destroy the city from the command of an angel and you may crush the people of Taif between 2 mountains. And if you want it is up to you what you want to do.” The prophet (SAW) choose to forgive and said: “I hope that inshaAllah if they reject, perhaps their children will accept Islam.” And they did accept Islam.

    Are we not to follow his example? Is it not blasphemy not to honor the life and way of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, by not following his example? If so, then let us forgive and by our actions show all those that do not believe how Muslims live so that they too may accept this glorious Quran.Recommend

  • Devils Advocate

    Finally, something worth reading on ET. Good one. This is what I call a ‘blog’ post.Recommend

  • Bilal Ahmed

    Good work Faheem bhai! U 2 keep shining on…….. May our love for the Holy Prophet(PBUH) enlighten every nook n corner of this world. As they say ” There is no darkness, it is only the abscence of light”.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    So, who ever Blasphemes is a Dark person.

    What if one considers his Country more important than Religion, isn’t insulting his Country tantamount to Blasphemy, like when Pakistanis burn American flags?

    What if I consider Non-Vegetarianism as Blasphemy. Will Pakistanis stop eating meat?

    Who gives you the right to get offended? Even if you do get offended, does your offense qualify to be addressed above others’?

    Has the person in question targeted any group, such as Muslims or ethnicity, which we can then bracket it into hate speech?

    If you say you cannot question or criticize Religious ideology, then most Islamic preachers should be jailed, as they spew venom against other Religions and question them.

    What about Ahmadis who are called non-Muslims? What about the offense they feel when Pakistanis call them non-Muslims?

    Stop this victimhood mentality and get real. Recommend

  • Imad Uddin

    beautiful. u have a big heart and positive mind. i am substantially unaware of reasons y u cant cum to Pakistan. sumthing recently made me a fan of et…Recommend

  • Faaltu mein khwam kha

    unfortunately people of the world draw their conclusion regarding Islam from the actions of Muslim which are not commendable to say the least,rather than some vague thing written in the holy book or even the life of Prophet.the level of sensitivity shown by Pakistani to their religious minorities(one mullah even going to the extent of burning Quran to frame a 11 year old retarded girl),does not qualify them to comment upon the dishonoring of their religion by people of other faith.Muslims should leave playing victims ,when they are given the taste of their own medicine. Recommend

  • http://comments Sultan Ahmed

    Hundred percent right clarification of the word ”freedom of expression ” has be become dire need of the time.
    Freedom of expression,while it is a fundamental right and privilege,should not be abused by such people,already have a fixed mind by such a disgrace and shameful act.
    In case,any one,in any public palce abuses highest profile like prophet the act will not be acceptable,followers shot him at site.Such act creat sudden provocation the same is beyond any one’s control.Recommend

  • IBA

    I am ashamed to call myself a Muslim. Yes I said it. And I know a lot of people would start of by saying sinner, kafir, blasphemy, etc. This just goes to prove my point.
    We have regressed so much now that at the smallest enticement we resort to violence, mayhem, chaos, lawlessness, is that what we have become a people of savages, terrorist, hypocrites.
    Today on this day of Love for the Holy Prophet I don’t see any love but I do see burning of buildings, rioting, looting of banks, injuring fellow Muslims, and breaking of laws set by the state and the Quran.
    What is the Muslim Ummah doing?
    Killing Innocent people like the US Ambassador to Libya and his four colleagues, rioting in the streets, burning buildings, shedding blood, spreading mayhem, and all sorts of act that is haram and forbidden. Who are you to protest for the Holy Prophet PBUH when you can’t even follow his teachings.
    You want to protest?
    Boycott all those products you use such as Television, LCDS, Cars, Mobile Phone, MP3 Players, Appliances, Food Products, Books, etc.
    Give up your nationalities to their country and come back to your homelands.
    Force your government to unite and take it to the UN to get a resolution against such acts.
    But NO that would mean giving up the luxuries of life, losing everything we have, going back to where most don’t want to.
    Well to all those people out there who think that they are protesting and doing all these acts out of love for the Holy Prophet PBUH. I tell them to open their eyes and come out their fantasies and realize that they are all nothing but hypocrites who don’t even know the first thing about love for the Holy Prophet PBUH but instead are nothing but simple mongrels who only prove to the world that whatever they think about Allah, Islam, The Quran, The Holy Prophet PBUH and Muslims is true and that we are nothing more than terrorist and savages.
    So all the Muslims around the world I ask you open your eyes and follow the true Islam and not your own version of fantasizes and either do what has to be done or shut up and watch what is happening without interfering.Recommend

  • Serious

    @Imad Uddin:
    Read his previous posts Imad. This author is an Ahmadi. He would have been killed. Shame on us for persecuting people like him who are abused and tortured by our government. But they go to other countries and defend the honor of Prophet(pbuh).

    I would love to hear about the Ahmadiyya beliefs about prophet (pbuh). Do they really love him as much as it looks on the surface?Recommend

  • Serious

    @Anoop:
    If you define darkness as ignorance…then yes, he is a dark person. Knowledge, not threats, will enlighten himRecommend

  • Serious

    I have read some of this author’s previous posts. Shocking. This blows my mind away that you get persecuted for allegedly dishonoring a man (Prophet Muhammad sa) in one country and then you go to anothe country… only to defend the honor of the same man!

    Bravo!Recommend

  • umair

    this issue will keep on increasing, its just a why west is fighting Islamophobia. I read an article related to it, you will certainly appreciate it. https://patrioticpakistan.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/the-blasphemy-will-only-increase/Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Ammar: Thanks for your honest and intelligent reply. The irony is that in a predominantly Christian country like America you find comfort and would not be expect to make such a choice but in predominantly Islamic Pakistan not just other faiths but also Muslims are being put in this position.
    On the question of religion being a matter of personal choice, I completely agree with you but I don’t think this view is shared by the majority in Pakistan, the five guys who write and comment on this ET site realy don’t count. Enjoyed the exchange thanks again. Recommend

  • The Youth of Pakistan!

    After all the mess that has been created due to the protests in the past few days, its our duty as responsible citizens to clean up the mess (regardless of who created it). Lets all be peaceful, and show the world that REAL Pakistanis dont believe in violence.
    The idea is simple, just get out on the streets and roads, use whatever resources you can to clean up the mess created by these riots.

    This is a national thing, and it would be great if people in every city of Pakistan join in! :)

    Here is the link for details!
    http://www.facebook.com/events/462769393763073/Recommend

  • http://pakistani-revival.blogspot.com Ovais

    to be very honest , we need an ahmedi to blog on islam.. and yes i am extremist cause i said that :)Recommend

  • Sha

    Its called illiteracy. People saw that someone made a film against their religion, so decided to burn down and protest violently, wildly, disgustingly in their own country, as if that made any difference to the guy who made it? Simply made the whole world laugh at Pakistan once again. Oh, and besides, these people try to act very religious don’t they, perhaps they should look back at the Prophet (PBUH)’s teachings. He taught us how to handle things with peace and tolerance, not violence, and definitely not burning down our own country, or killing the ambassador who had nothing to do whatsoever with all this. We must stop judging an entire community based on a few peoples’ views!

    With more than 70% of the nation being uneducated, and the completely gruesome and disgusting politicians, Pakistan really has no way around such situations. It depresses me.

    PAKISTAN HAS NO WAY AROUND THIS, WITHOUT EDUCATION!
    And while the absolutely disgusting politicians steal our money, and make our country bankrupt and make a joke of the word ‘Pakistani’, WE ALL JUST SIT THERE AND DO NOTHING! SO THATS WHAT WILL CONTINUE TO HAPPEN, SO STOP MOANING AND GROANING ABOUT ITRecommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    @Serious,

    Fair enough.

    Salman Rushdie questions Islam and the concept of Religion all the time. This guy has won laurels for his writing and even won a Booker prize.

    What do you reckon, he is? Dark? :)Recommend

  • http://13949/violent-protests-islam-taught-us-better Khaja Hussain

    The Pakistani people will not change. The only alternative is to divide the country for each sect so that they will live in peace and prosperity and without horror or terror.Recommend

  • M-Tariq

    @Serious:
    If you are interested to know ahmaddiya perspective about our beloved Prophet PBUH just go to alislam.org and listen what our head of community said in 21sep Jumma sermon. How he want us to act on this horrible incident. Recommend

  • Serious

    @Anoop:
    That’s a good question. I have not read all of his works so I can’t comment, in fairness.

    He is an accomplished writer. If his intent was to raise an intellectual point, no, then I personally don’t think thats dark. The fatwa on his head was really dark though (it was ignorance. and ignorance is dark)

    These other attacks by people who are ex-convicts or ex-porn stars who have no clear idea of Islam (I bet they cannot tell me simple facts about the prophet’s life) are darkRecommend

  • Serious

    @Ovais:
    Not sure what you meant by that Ovais. Please clarifyRecommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    @Serious:

    I congratulate you and want to thank you for an honest, intelligent answer.

    You should start with Midnight’s Children, I am telling you it is amazing! I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.Recommend

  • jzamans

    @Serious:
    Yes we Ahmadis love the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from the depth of our hearts. Out of the ten conditions to which one commits when entering the fold of Ahmadiyyat one is that we will invoke blessings and peace of Allah on Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) by reciting durood regularly.
    And the founder of our community loved him more than any of us.
    I would quote his couplet:

    After the love of Allah it is Muhammad’s love
    which has captivated my heart
    If this love be kufr, by God I am a great kafir
    My Love! My Benefactor! Let my life be sacrificed in Thy way
    For when hath Thou shown indifference in Thy goodness to this slave?
    If it be the custom that claimants of Thy love be beheaded at Thy threshold
    Then let it be known I am the first to claim that rewardRecommend

  • http://None. Imtisal Ahmed Siddiqui

    Life After Death.

    Sitting alone in a room, lots of things in your mind. Wandering around in your hall. Planning out about the future, buying an iphone-5, getting exquisite quality rims for your tyres,Calling your girlfriend,using internet,hanging out with your friends,back stabbing and trying to make fun of your friends and ridicule him for his stupid talks. Life goes on and on and one day it comes that Holy ghost comes and grab you by the neck and then you are all alone and noone`s there to hear your voice,feeling repentful and dismayed about the deplorable condition of yours. Did u ever think you have to die one day? That thought comes to my mind and i get a feeling of as if i am going to die the next moment and i start praying that moment ,recalling the sins i have done in past.We arent infidels, the more you will think about the death, the more your faith would be strong. May Allah teaches us the right path and especially to those who are astray and fellows of the evil.Recommend