Cry over a charred cinema but not a dead human being?

Published: October 2, 2012
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I think we need to prioritise loss of life over material loss, don't you? PHOTO: AYESHA MIR

The six cinemas that were torched during the rather ill-fated Ishq-e-Rasool Day, marked the decline of cultural tolerance in Pakistan. However, going by news coverage of that day, it seemed that this incident was more important than anything else that happened.

However, there was another side to the story, too. The sun that went down on Ishq-e-Rasool day, held as a mark of protest against an anti-Islam video, took away many other things along with it; including 26 lives — lives which did not spark a debate in the news media.

One can posit that these 26 lives belonged to 26 households and these deaths scarred all of them for life. These lives were silenced for a crime they had not committed. Neither had they belonged to the team that made that video nor had they concurred with it. They were killed solely due to their crime of being out of their houses that day. When the rioters rampaged through the streets on September 21, they demolished and burnt everything that came in their way; shops, tyres, ATMs, KFC branches and cinemas.

What shocked me more than the fact that a day meant to exhibit love and reverence for the Holy Prophet (pbuh) turned into a day of looting, torching and chaos, was the fact that news of burning cinemas garnered more content and attention than the killing of innocent people! Have we become such a shallow, commoditized society?

More Twitterati were concerned about the cinemas burnt — which, according to them, marked the death of “entertainment for the poor” — than about the loss of those 26 lives.

Karachi_Post ‏@Karachi_Post

#Pakistan had 1770 cinemas in 1990, which were down to 570 in2002,those left are also sitting ducks for extremists to burn & take down

Rizwan Saleemi ‏@rizwansaleemi

So are the burnt down cinemas in karachi gona be rebuilt or not ?? Anyone ?? @MohsinSayeed

Mark Hourahane ‏@eggplantuk

@movie_theaters How about an article on the site about the 6 cinemas in Karachi that were attacked on Friday?

ßashir ßaloch ‏@HellboyBaloch

Horrible sights in downtown. Prince, Nishat and Bambino Cinemas burnt down. #karachi

Attilio L. De Alberi ‏@aldealberi

Ishq-e-Rasool Day violence: One of Karachi’s last 2 Pashto cinemas also gutted

While a lot of people cried over unruly mobs torching cinemas, 26 families mourned the death of their loved ones. After thoroughly seeing the coverage and seeing at least one story printed everyday for the two weeks, following the ill-fated day, I thought to myself: have cinemas or entertainment in general surpassed the value we place on human lives?

If the ratio was even remotely balanced, maybe I wouldn’t have been so stunned, but 6 to 26? Over four times the amount of lives were lost as these cinemas that everyone is mourning. How can we as a nation be so oblivious to the pain these families are suffering and have suffered.

Deep down , I know that had even one influential person died, our media coverage would have been remarkably different. This is what saddens me even more. Do the poor not deserve the same?

Have we become so indifferent or rather desensitised by the media churning stories about killing everyday that we do not care about such news anymore? Or, were the cinemas worth more than those 26 lives, so much so that the government was called upon to set up a panel of architects and experts to assess the damage made to the cinemas?

I think we need to prioritise loss of life over material loss, don’t you? Or have we lost the human being inside us?

Read more by Sidrah here or follow her on Twitter @seedwah 

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Sidrah.Moiz.Khan

Sidrah Moiz Khan

The author is a sub-editor at The Express Tribune.

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