Conspiracy Culture and reaction to the attacks on Ahmedi Mosques: Why our news outlets spread hatred?

Posted on May 30, 2010 by

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Recently, NYT in a column expressed reservations over the conspiracy culture in Pakistan. The column pointed out the massive fan following of super-conspiracy theorists and the wide acceptance of these mega theories as legitimate. Any sane Pakistani who has studied history beyond what he was taught through the doctored textbooks or what he was indoctrinated with at home  and by society in general can attest to the reality of our national delusion. Not only have we created a mythical history of our past and conjured a national ideology out of thin air, we have crafted a xenophobic attitude nationally. The lack of trust between the people of Pakistan and the US Government has valid reasons as well. They left us dry whenever they had achieved the smallest bit of their strategic objectives but our culture of denial and delusion goes beyond the US.

It is not the first time that any foreign media outlet or any Pakistani has tried to point out the delusion that has gripped our public almost entirely. Any writer that tries to point it out, tries to point out the errors in  the fictional textbook history, spreads a message of tolerance and rationality is more than often labeled a “traitor” or an “agent” or both. Attached to these badges are the obvious associations and payrolls of RAW or CIA or MOSSAD or any combination of these three. In the wider context it has become tantamount to treason and heresy to question our grand narrative or our public perception of global politics. I will not reduce my argument to pointing out  news outlets or places on the blogsophere that have accused intellectuals of treason and instigated hatred against them for they are not worthy of mentioning.

People across the academia and the blogosphere complained about the NYT column and suggested that NYT being an esteemed paper should have at least referenced the efforts of honest intellectuals who are trying to hold the bastion of rationality and tolerance. While NYT missed this point, yesterday’s newspapers proved the word of NYT true. Prof C M Naim has gladly contributed his thoughts based on yesterday’s reporting across major Urdu newspapers. The reporting is downright shameless and a portrayal of our public opinion which is mostly denial and blame on foreign powers. Of course the “foreign hand” is blamed, the editor chooses his choice of intelligence agency from RAW, CIA and MOSSAD and the newspapers forget that it was necessary to comment on the relationship between the historical persecution of Ahmedis, prosecution at the hands of the state and the constant fear that they have lived in.

Prof C M Naim commenting the controversy over this article and responses from our side today wrote the following:-

“Here are the front-page “explanations” in Pakistan’s two foremost Urdu newspapers: Nawa-i-Waqt and Jang. Both are published in several cities, and also have web editions.

According to one staff writer in Nawa-i-Waqt, government agencies are perplexed at the targeting of the “Qadianis.” According to them, the war on terror started in 2001, and for nine years the terrorists never attacked the “Qadianis.” So why, out of the blue, were there two simultaneous attacks on “Qadiani worship places?” “What could be the purpose behind the attacks,” the agencies ask.

“According to responsible sources,” the staff writer continues, “the purpose of targeting the Qadianis was to scar Pakistan’s dignity abroad, and create instability and confusion within. The terrorists, by targeting the Qadianis, tried to kill two birds with one stone. It was an extremely organized action. They knew what reactions would come from abroad. In particular from Canada, the United States, Germany and other Western countries, where Qadianis live in large numbers and have much influence in official circles.

On the other hand, investigating groups say that the arrested terrorist was not a Punjabi. As for the matter of the Punjabi Taliban’s or Baitullah Mahsud’s reported acceptance of responsibility for the attacks, government agencies are nevertheless extending their enquiries to certain neighboring countries. They want to see if Bharat was involved in the two incidents with the purpose of damaging Pakistan’s image abroad. Bharat could have used some local group to further its condemnable aim.

“The agencies are also trying to find out if there was any involvement of those foreign agencies that have been putting pressure on Pakistan to take action in Punjab, particularly in south Punjab. Was this an attempt on their part to create an excuse for such action?”

A different staff writer separately contributes an analysis, suggesting that the attacks could have been a joint action by India, the United States, and Israel, “as a reaction to the recent American failure in its scheme of funding various religious groups in Pakistan under the guise of Culture, Heritage, and Sufism and then pitting them against certain other religious groups.”

The same paper, Nawa-i-Waqt, also reports on its front page that “Hizba-al-Tahrir” has concluded it was an act by the Americans and their local agents. “This is how they obtain popular support just before every military operation.” The group also warns the public that soon there will be a deliberate power crisis “so that people could be kept in the dark about the forthcoming massacre in North Waziristan.”

Some of the above are repeated in various reports on the front-page in Jang. There is also a special report by a staff writer. It begins by claiming that certain secret agencies of the country had discovered the ugly conspiracy before the attacks, and informed the relevant officials; the latter, however, paid the report no attention. “A senior officer of a secret agency,” the report continues, “told us that the Afghan intelligence, together with India’s RAW, and the intelligence organizations of U.K., America, and Israel, was involved in the incident, and that the senior most officer of the Afghan intelligence had contacted by satellite phone an extremely influential Qadiani in Bharat, to tell him that something against his community was about to happen. According to this senior official of a secret agency, such attacks on the Qadianis bring into question the security Pakistan provides to its minorities. The above-mentioned four countries, enemies of Islamic jihad, have gained strength by getting this operation done. India now gains an excuse for its planned action against madrassas and Muslim scholars in India, in particular against the scholars of the Deobandi school.”

A separate report on the front page carries quotations from the statement issued by the maulanas of “Almi Majlis-i-Tahaffuz-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwat,” including: “[The attacks] are a huge international conspiracy to use the issue of minority rights in Pakistan in order to advance a deliberate scheme seeking to destroy the Anti-Qadianat ordinance and the laws that protect the Prophet’s honor.”

Note that Hizb at Tahrir is a banned organization. It appealed successfully against bans twice but it is still a banned organization. Nonetheless, it publicly spreads messages asking for a militant revolution against the present regime and system of governance (the mythical Khilafa) and only last week it used banners in a major business area in Islamabad to spread its message. Banned organization, eh?

Similarly, the common narrative that Ahmedis/Qadiyanis or any other minority (many times Shiites as well) are accused of “foreign funding” and “influential in official circles”. The Ahmedis were accused of being funded and supported by the British before partition and since then the devil to be is the US and the “west” in general.

As for the attackers not being Punjabi, all of them have been identified and are infact Punjabis. Yellow journalism and falsifying news are established methods in our media it seems.

The Editor of The Nation, Dr Shireen Mazari could focus on rationality for only so long and then went down to blaming the “foreign hand”. She writes,

There are also some troubling questions about the Lahore targeting of the two Ahmadi places of worship:

First: The timing comes at the peak of US pressure for the Pakistan Army to begin its operations in North Waziristan Agency. Mere coincidence or not, every time the US has wanted the Pakistan military to commence an operation in FATA, there have been such acts of terror prior to the commencement.

Second: The incidents happened when Pakistanis were celebrating Youm-i-Takbeer, the anniversary of our going overtly nuclear – something that still is not acceptable to the West and Israel.

Third: What is equally relevant is that our Government and our national security managers need to seriously look into how friendly spy agencies from West Asia and the US-UK were allowed to establish direct links to Kashmiri freedom groups based in Pakistan, especially central and south Punjab, during the Bosnia war.

Thankfully, Editorial teams at The News and Dawn found reason and logic to be far more compelling.

Most newspapers express views that would be readily acceptable. They adhere to the same conspiracy theories, the same bigotry, the same intolerance and the same populist ideas that the people hold. They cannot take a liberal viewpoint when the public has an irrational attitude towards the debate over separation between religion and state. They cannot, do not and probably will not indulge in introspection and take a look at our twisted grand narrative and the reasons for our conspiracy culture. They will continue to rely on conspiracy theories for they sell and sell good. When a major news and media group translated a flawed and childish documentary on the 9/11 attacks and associated conspiracies, not only did it air the documentary more than once (it has been aired annually since then), the DVDs were sold throughout the country and it profited form a documentary meant for free distribution (ethics anyone?). Similarly, a televangelist with a fake degree, is guilty of inciting hatred against the Ahmedis and having more than often taken to political rhetoric in a religious show. Another media outlet is known to have published a column its Sunday magazine dedicated to tarnishing the Ahmedis for over 3 years and the author of this column without any sources or references would claim heinous, morally reprehensible  and utterly sick values among the Ahmedis. This deliberate yellow journalism has spread like cancer and our news outlets today spread outright hatred.

Ban on religious facial coverings in France is always on the front pages, but the case of a child molester deserves a mention in the obscurest place in the middle pages. Similarly, a ban on minarets in Switzerland is deemed far more important than it ought to be. It is not that European countries have shown double standards for religious tolerance or freedom of speech, the point is that these are painted as symbols of contempt and hatred and a wider “global order” to appease to the apprehensions of the people that the world is out to get them and a “western anti-Islam” global order seeks to control them. More than often politicians are accused under the same banner as well.

Among major news outlets, only Dawn has ever had the policy and courage to express liberal and tolerant views. That is partly understandable for its reader base is almost entirely urban upper middle and elite class. The major reader base is the more conservative and orthodox public which is normally limited to reading Urdu newspapers and in the wider context Urdu literature. It is time that our articulate and sagacious intelligentsia start writing in Urdu for that would inherently reach a much wider audience and can have far reaching consequences. It is ironic that I am writing this very piece in English but I’m trying to get my message across.

PS:- I will not waste time commenting on those who were happy, delighted or condoned Friday’s attacks becuase they deemed Ahmedis “Wajib ul Qatl” and in their sick mindset, human life has no value. Had such people been born to a Ahmedi family, and because these people have never indulged in introspection, they would most definitely have been “Wajib ul Qatl” themselves. Furthermore, I’m using the word “mosque” for the word “masjid” is banned to be used for Ahmedi places of worship by PPC 298-B(d). If somebody can point out the equality of both words under law, then I’ll be happy to retract for whatever reservations I have over any law, the law still reigns supreme and I have no intentions of violating it.

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