Pakistanis Protest American Video Deriding Prophet

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Pakistani demonstrator throws a tear gas shell towards riot police during a protest against an anti-Islam film in Islamabad on September 21, 2012. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images)

Protests sparked by an American-made video mocking the Prophet Mohammad are expected to intensify across Pakistan. Ahead of the protests, the United States issued a travel warning advising American citizens to avoid traveling to Pakistan. American officials even released television advertisements showing President Obama condemning the incendiary video.

Ansar Abbasi, Pakistani journalist, explains why this video has angered so many Pakistanis. "You need to understand that why, under the garb of the freedom of expression, such movies are allowed to be on the internet, and why there is no action being taken against those who are committing blasphemy." 

Abbasi points to laws that protect Jews against antisemitism, and asks why there are not similar laws protecting Muslims.  

Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic studies at American University and Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United Kingdom, describes the impact this could have on U.S.-Pakistan relations. 

"I think it is a hate crime in the sense that we no longer are talking of free speech. It is like shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater, and almost calculating that people will be angered. There's cause and effect here," Ahmed said.

"We have to discover a new paradigm of how to treat each others' cultures and civilizations. The argument here for free speech is countered by arguments of Muslim societies, like Pakistan for example, where the constitution protects the integrity and the reputation of the Prophet of Islam." 

Ahmed attributes much of the violence to a lack of understanding between the two cultures, and having watched incidents like this one occur periodically over the last few decades, he is frustrated to see that so little has changed. "We have to come up with a solution, because every life is precious."  


Ansar Abbasi and Akbar Ahmed

Produced by:

Maggie Penman and Mythili Rao

Comments [15]


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wrote the e-book in it or something. I think that you just could do with a few percent to pressure the
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Mar. 07 2013 01:50 AM
sarah from texas

Yes the Jews are protected, but they were not trying to kill off the citizens of the USA like the Islamic people say they wish to do. Why should we protect anything about them when they hate us?

Sep. 27 2012 07:35 PM

P.S. For the person (MG) saying that in The Onion news they had a political cartoon mocking religion, you know, now a days, people have become SO demoralized that they think its FUNNY when someone MOCKS God and His prophets and His message, because that is the overall agenda displayed in your music and tv screens everyday.

Who made that possible? The Naturalist 1st presidents of the U.S. who were NOT in fact, Christian at all, and tried to subliminally incorporate their atheistic views unto law as they did in the Constitution. This country has been demoralized of religion ever since.

Sure I understand there is a supposed separation between church and state, but does that mean you should give up the core moral values they entail? I dont think so.

Sep. 24 2012 08:01 PM

I think that anybody who supports a Nazi party obviously has not understood the damage caused by Hitler in any of his political takeover strategies. He murdered Jews and Poles and Africans alike. Anybody who would even 'consider' this to be an 'acceptable' party to live with has probably not educated themselves enough on this subject. Its like saying you want to have Eugenics scientists who wanted to eradicate medically ill people, women and habitual criminals and kill them off to create a "perfect race" and say you love them and want to live with them. Has the Flouride in the water system got you THAT blinded?

I think the world needs both to become educated on everyone's beliefs and to learn cultural sensitivity and practice it towards others. The Youtube flick that has sparked the outrage is absurd, yes blasphemous, and even depicts Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) in a negative way. But those people killing innocent people are transgressing the laws of their Lord and are unjust. I do support protesting and demanding right but in a civilized fashion and not going crazy throwing rocks and harming people. Thats over the top. I dont think the U.S. is going to try to make peace with the people who are enraged. What they SHOULD do is try to calm the flame and show the world their sincere apologies, as well as to come up with programs showing how the U.S appreciates its multitude of cultures and religions such as this one. Teach people about Islam's contribution to the world and to history such as the American Museum of Natural history in NYC did the 1001 Inventions in Muslim History. Beautiful and very educational.

To sum this up, I am muslim, not by birth but by choice, and I am commanded by my Lord, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth to believe in Him as the Jews and Christians believe in Him, yet believing in the message that God is One with no partner or idols or sons/daughters/wives. It is not befitting the Majesty of the King of the worlds to undertake any such partner. He is the God of Abraham, Moses, Noah, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon them all) And this is Islam!

This is the same tactic Hitler of the Nazi Regime used (Propaganda) to try to “demonize” my Jewish cousins. This is outrageous and feels like we’re living in the time of the Crusades. My religion v. yours (shouldnt be that way! Where is the harmony?)

Sep. 24 2012 07:54 PM
Arthur Pellman from Port Washington, NY

This Akbar Ahmed, Chairman of Islamic Studies at American University, needs to grow up along with the loonies who are using a stupid video as an excuse to attack the United States. He would like the US to set up a Department of Censorship to protect the feelings Muslim who may be offended by some jerk. He is wrong when he says that there are laws against anti-Semitism. Not in the US there aren’t! In the US there are laws against hate crimes, but those are criminal acts that would be criminal without hate as a motivation. We don’t believe in punishing “criminal” ideas! As an American citizen and Jew, I am proud that we have an American Nazi party. Let them march around in their uniforms, Swastikas and helmets expressing their filth. In the US. Professor, we trust “in the market place of ideas.” Good ideas are bought; bad ideas wind up in the trash. I am amazed that a professor at a fine University where free and open discussion is encouraged would recommend censorship!

Sep. 21 2012 04:38 PM
CK from Ykt.

How aggravating. I understand that the muslim community feels outraged. So many of us agree that this pathetic movie on you tube is terrible. But there's no excuse for killing and mob rule. You can call our "so called" freedom speech wrong but their "so called" outrage is showing them as what we all fear: childish, violent and uncivilized. And how do you treat Christians and Jews in your countries? I think the guest who's now a teacher the American University enjoys our freedoms but finds it easy to criticize. Am I the only only one that thinks he should go home?

Sep. 21 2012 03:45 PM
MG from Hoboken

People need to grow up and stop being such babies.

Did you all see that cartoon in The Onion last week?

If one were a Buddhist or Hindu or Christian or Jew of a delicate sensibility, he or she might have taken great offense at that very profane drawing and yet, what happened? Did any mobs assemble anywhere? Did anyone issue death threats? No.

Sep. 21 2012 03:44 PM
Nikos Retsos from Chicago

The Muslim protests against the U.S. are not really about the anti-Islamic video. Since the 1979 Revolution in Iran, the U.S. has been heralded by the late Ayatollah Khomeini, and many Imams in the Muslim world, as "The great Satan." Add to that: a) The blind U.S. support for Israel. b) The U.S. invasion of Iraq. c) The War in Afghanistan. d) U.S. Predator Drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen that have killed hundreds -if not thousands- of civilians. d) The U.S. sanction on Iran that have been denounced by 120 countries at the Non-Aligned Movement Conference in Tehran recently. All that has left an anti-American hostility simmering across the Muslim world.

Then came that U.S. originated anti-Muslim video, and it was like dowsing that "simmering hostility" with barrels of gasoline! The video was just the spark that ignited it, and turned it into a conflagration! For the Muslims, it was insult on top of all past U.S. injuries, and in their psyche it was "The straw that broke the camel's back!" Nikos Retsos, retired professor


Sep. 21 2012 02:47 PM
Seymour Charles

What I found most interesting about the show were not the predictable comments of Mr. Abasi and Mr.Ahmed but the failure of the interviewer to ask them whether the limits on free speech to protect religious sensitivity should also apply to the Arab media—not some obscure Internet Web site but major government-supported TV and radio stations—where the most vile anti-semitic, anti-Christian and anti-"other" films, live shows and clerical speeches are broadcast on a regular basis. And where unlike President Obama, not a single Arab leader or prominent religious leader has ever denounced such speech as hateful or beyond the limits of free speech. In effect, the two guests failed to denote the "red lines" on free speech, leaving it up to the Arab street to make that determination.

Sep. 21 2012 10:50 AM
carl from queens

on a few occasions i have said, peace will always be fleeting, as long as we only see what others do to us, never giving a thought to what we are doing to others.... but nobody listens to a ''joe 3 pack''... a few days ago, on public radio,rabbi lord sacks said, ''until we learn of the pain of our enemies, only then could peace be possible''...

Sep. 21 2012 10:25 AM
Larry Fisher

What would Bill Hicks do? He'd create Comic Missionaries to go over to the Mid East and teach humor, irony, and bad taste to these folks. He'd have You Tube professionals show clips from Monty Python's "The Life Of Brian" and from Mel Brooks, "The Producers" and then he'd chill them out with porno.

I am super angry that a dumb movie can make people so upset. We all need to laugh at our Gods. Sure, most of the time we should laugh with our God, but sometimes it is alright to laugh at him.

Here's what I am laughing about...Those actors who are in the controversial movie going on auditions today and whether or not the movie in question is on their resume.

Sep. 21 2012 10:12 AM
Angel from Miami, FL

You know what's like yelling "fire" in a crowded theater? Actually yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. It's when someone speaks with malicious intent to initiate an extreme reaction that is not malicious however ugly or unfortunate. A "War of the Worlds"-style radio announcement to intentionally cause a large-scale panic can be an exception to the Free Speech amendment. A video that ridicules or questions thoughts or beliefs is NOT an excuse to limit free speech. It's the exact reason the big wigs made it the first amendment.

Sep. 21 2012 10:09 AM
Catherine from Brooklyn

Since these riots began, I've heard several Muslims interviewed who said that mockery of Christianity would not be tolerated. This is not true. I am a Christian and I often see atheist groups disparaging Christianity by mocking Jesus or comparing God to such imaginary characters as the tooth fairy. Should their voices be silenced? Absolutely not. We do not want a theocracy that upholds blasphemy laws. Those who do not adhere to my religion have no obligation to uphold its tenets.

Sep. 21 2012 09:54 AM
BK from Hoboken Nj

The reporter used the phrase "so-called free speech". Maybe the Pakistani reporter needs to learn a little about the US. The right to free speech and assembly are the basis of our freedom. He comes from a country with blasphemy laws for insulting Islam but no other religions! This is a basic cultural difference that can't be adjudicated or debated away.
I am sorry that the idiot made this movie, but the Islam world's reaction only reinforces the perception that Muslims are violent people.
He does has a point though about religious favoritism in the US. Recent anti-Muslim ads were posted by the MTA in NYC. There is no way an anti-Semitoc ad with a swastika would have been accepted due to some societal guilt towards Jews.

Sep. 21 2012 09:45 AM

It seems Ahmed wants rule by mob. The US should compromise its right to free speech to appease the mob. Why doesn't the mob compromise its anti-blasphemy laws? By those standards speech can become very limited, very quickly. Are there NO muslims at all who value free speech?

Sep. 21 2012 09:35 AM

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