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There is little point writing beyond this. Muslims protest. Whatever it is, they protest. Protests turn violent. People condemn. Then it is an insult of Islam. This rubbish cycle continues forever...

Ironic Islamic Protests

Today, when news hit that a Berlin court has allowed a rightwing extremist organization to use cartoons of Mohammed during their protest; I remembered the Danish cartoon controversy. At that time, Orkut was the social network of choice. A Danish newspaper had published a series of cartoons of Islamic prophet Mohammed, much to the delight of atheists and the many people irritated with touchy Muslims.

Predictably, very predictably, Muslims were furious. Protests happened worldwide. Bombs, death threats, the works. Yet, they resulted in increased hate for Islam and more ridicule. Communities like "Quran is not from God" flourished. Indian, Pakistani and other atheists in countries with restricted freedoms took to fake profiles to vent their fury, many from countries with freedom of speech posted from their real profiles. Me having neither luxury remained content to read.

It was quite apparent that the more the protests raged, the more insane Muslims looked.

But you know what the irony of this was? The people who took the protests far and wide were Muslims themselves. Two Muslim Imams who had got asylum in Denmark had compiled the cartoons. For good measure, they added cartoons from another newspaper, which were making fun of the first newspaper's campaign and not Mohammed at all.

and...

They added three cartoons to their dossier that had not been published anywhere. At all. One was a picture of a man at a pig squealing contest in France. A general photo available on the Internet. They added it to their dossier with a caption saying that he was Mohammed, thus committing blasphemy themselves, but Muslims ignored that when it got exposed, as they were highlighting the sins of the original cartoons. Many made excuses that the photos may have been published somewhere. Or may have been mailed as forwards.

Atheists in one of the community ran a challenge asking anyone to prove that the photos were published anywhere before the dossier by the Imams or to prove that such a forward existed. To my knowledge, no one did. Bombs, death threats, mayhem followed. The newspaper was forced to apologize in the interests of humanity and their own safety, though their law did not require them to.

Similar protests happened when a crazy pastor in the US threatened to burn a Quran and eventually did burn it. Protests and condemnation followed worldwide with attacks on Americans (which, to many meant any white people). A brutal massacre followed in Afghanistan.

Some photo of a pig at/on Mecca (I never did find out) resulted in muslims in Thane or Mulund rioting. Of course, an image search can still find lots of blasphemous images. It is impossible to wipe them off the Internet. So any  time you want to get Muslims acting insane, all you have to do is Google and tweet a link.

Behead those who say Islam is violent

It became further ridiculous when ridicule of Islam for being a violent religion was protested by huge processions of Muslims, and someone with a sharp eye caught posters saying "Kill those who say Islam is violent" and "Kill those who say Islam is intolerant".

It would be hilarious, but is tragic that all you have to do is create a fake profile; upload an insulting image and watch Muslims destroy their lives as well as those of others. Because make no mistake, apart from lawless wastelands of the world, every single place, Muslims got into trouble with the law over vandalism, rioting, murder, attempt to murder and what not. This is the part everyone forgets, or it would end. The swathes of destruction and dead people stood indisputable proof of the violence of Islam. In protesting a condemnation of Islam, Muslims set about proving it right.

Countless Muslims got police records over these that would forever be a mark on their records, damaging future jobs, visas, passports, education and more. They would forever be on the radars of US organizations. And US security is Obsessive Compulsive. Then, when they travel, if there is increased security for Muslims, that is seen as insulting too.

The real story here is the fiction peddled by religious leaders that every injustice against every single Muslim needs Muslims everywhere to be outraged. If under normal circumstances people break, vandalize, threaten, indulge in hate speech, they are thugs. If they do it for religion, they are people who are hurt. Historic wrongs must be remembered, and hopefully reversed. Any wrong against a Muslim is intentional. Non-Muslims violating Muslim norms are a greater outrage than Muslims. Non-Muslims killing Muslims are a greater outrage than Muslims.

Thus, if you have someone who preaches the Muslim need to protest, he is in business all year. And I do mean business, because the main purpose of these protests works out as shows of power as well as making people feel scared enough of non-Muslims that they huddle together and support whoever the big guy with the claims of power and protection is. Which will happen to be the guy promoting protest or whoever he points to. Surprise!

Where Muslims were in minorities, they became targets for retaliatory hate crime attacks for their "terrorist supporting" ways and for imposing their religious expectations on the world at large. Sikhs often paid the price, because too many people are ignorant about differences. Of course, these hate crimes are further fodder on how Islam is attacked.

Who benefits?

The crazies. Religious-political entities whose support base would be pathetic because of their regressive and unpalatable attitudes become bastions of true Muslim protection, because the world is unsafe enough without them. There is always political profit in violence, and if there is a neighbourhood mullah explaining h

Who loses?

People trying hard to humanize Islam. To build bridges. To coexist.

Closer home, we have Muslims on some kind of rampage. Protests turning violent in various cities. Yesterday in Lucknow the Buddha park was vandalized. Statues, yes, but even plants uprooted. I wonder what evil the plants represented. Worse, what sense in the world does it make to vandalize the Buddha park in Lukhnow, because someone showed you photos of Lamas standing over Muslim dead bodies (which in reality are Lamas on a rescue operation). If you are going to be stupid, is it any surprise that criminals can con you into getting a police record for their profit?

Few are going to notice that as far as damage to life and limb goes, these protests have not lead to as many deaths as their numbers would lead one to fear. There have been smaller mobs and more dead in India's history itself. The police is happy to let the rioters do their thing. If all goes well, they will be a nice vote bank at the cost of public property. If not, they can always claim to be overwhelmed. Notice how the profit belongs to someone else, in loss, it will be the Muslims blamed. A political method, but the sanction comes from their own leaders using them.

People from northeast are under a real, imaginary or fake death threat all over the country - depending on who you believe - the threats may even be planted. But the result is the same. There are people from the northeast fleeing cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune to better be safe than sorry. True or false, they work because of the reputation Muslims have created. It is believable that people in an unrelated place can be hurt by Muslims. The rumor *could* be true. This credibility to the rumors is something Muslims have granted, which gives anyone with an internet connection the ability to plant rumors on their behalf. This can be Muslims who would like not to be traced, or Hindus who would like to score a political point, or anyone with a political agenda.

All any one has to do to make Muslims look like homicidal maniacs is.... nothing. Just point them to a suitable outrage. Hyper emotionalism and misplaced anger do the rest. All the government needs to do to shrug its own responsibilities of massive misgovernance is to let the circus distract from them. And please note here, by government it is the Congress government, the supposed messiah of Muslims that I am talking about. The BJP is not even in the picture here. This time, the worst they may have done - *may* - even that is unverified; is scared northeast people into believing rumors, attributing intentions or hyped the threat angle, etc. Political opportunism, but waaaaay after Muslims and Congress have done worse.

In my view, the story of the Muslim outrage - everywhere in the world, where it isn't local - is Muslims insulting Islam more than anyone else. They harm themselves and their futures most. They make their religion look like a headless chicken act holding local communities hostage to outrage anywhere in the world, which is bizarre. Unless Muslims learn to see how they get used for political purposes, they will forever be delivering outrage when buttons are pushed, till a point comes when the religion itself starts getting banned for being a law and order problem.

This is a crisis now. There needs to be better dialogue among Muslims and categorical refusals to become mobs to protest things on the basis of religion. To refuse to risk their own lives, limbs, properties and reputations over things happening in another part of the world. To rubbish the fiction that a government not moved to action by a multi-ethnic massacre spanning months can be intimidated into fixing problems if enough buses are burnt today afternoon.

Am I recommending against the fundamental right to protest? No. I am recommending FOR the fundamental right to free speech - which includes receiving accurate information, that gets encroached by whoever wants to use outrage. Right to free speech includes right to information. Your free choice is only as good as the information being fed to you. Time to stop assuming some sources of information as golden. They have stabbed too many backs. Change the victim narrative. You are enough people. Stop being paranoid. The exact same advice I give to women. LIVE free and limits will dissolve. Fighting ain't gonna work if you already are the victim. And if you aren't victim, you don't need to fight.

This cannot be stressed enough. This is already a crisis.

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I am aware that I am opening myself to a lot of argument and criticism, but frankly, this blog is bigger than I am. It demands my truth, and I provide it, because I believe in the values I am living here. So, if I must take some risks to live it, so be it.

I ask of you that you hear me out with patience. You have nothing to lose, because we have no functional options anyway.

There is a lot of anger in India right now, and many in Mumbai are furious. Some have decided that Pakistan has a hand in the blasts and think enough is enough, and India should attack Pakistan and defeat it once and for all.

Let me say at this point, that this is premature. We have no proof.

However, many people asked me in frustrated anger, "what do we do then?" and I had commented "I have no clue why people can't see any options between inaction and war - are we really so incapable of creative and effective jobs?"

And people wanted to know "like what?", so I write this post that had been playing in my mind for a long time.

It is hurt, anger speaking. None of the ground realities have changed. India and Pakistan are still nuclear armed countries, and Pakistan is still enough of a nut case that we can't even think of a limited war with them playing nuclear wildcard.

Those who are okay with nuclear bombing Pakistan totally should think about the prevailing winds and where the nuclear fallout will drift. Thank you.

We have our forces as our safety net if Pakistan attacks. They shouldn't be our first plan, because then there is no fallback, and using them as a first plan is guaranteed failure one way or the other. We can destroy Pakistan as a country, but whoever is left alive will have a renewed hatred of India and not even marginal pretense at law. Is that what we want? No, thank you.

The real reason we shouldn't attack Pakistan is that the biggest problem we have with Pakistan is its Army. They have been using us as a bogey to scare people into remaining together at best and manipulate for fun and profit more likely. The minute we attack Pakistan, that lie gets credibility, and we get our next generation of jihadis. Back to square one. Many people have spoken about the rest of the reasons of the bad idea, and I leave it to you to find them if it matters. I'll move on to the things less said.

The other idea I want to kill is the idea that doing nothing is non-violence. Doing nothing is inaction, not non-violence. Doing nothing about violence is violence. I count our current responses as inaction, because they create no change, and we know going in, that they will create no change. To expect only talks to somehow get everyone feeling so fuzzy pink that they set aside decades of agenda is naive. Particularly since not setting it aside has no consequences whatsoever as long as they don't run out of filing space for dossiers. Why would they? Frankly, I wouldn't drop something I was doing as a strategic advantage if I could get away with not dropping it. And they can get away with it, because they have *shudder* nukes. It is a fact. There currently is no way around it. Their ass is covered. What's more, they have the insanity to kill themselves to kill us. We don't. Whether that is good or bad is irrelevant. It is what is.

It is the mark of stupidity to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out. If we are using ideas proven not to work, we can at least quit the melodrama of surprise if they don't work.

So, if this won't work, and that won't work, what next? Something else. We have too narrow a view on this problem. Too rigid, too full of paths worn bare. We need new ideas. New ideas that will be effective in shaking the grip of terrorism. New ideas that will not depend on a war we know is a bad idea. We need geniuses, not warriors.

Using the metaphor of a person, we need to be present with our whole selves, not just defensive facades. If I am authentic, I evoke authenticity in you. We need to move away from the idea of a conflict if we don't want a conflict. It is no use pointing fingers at who did what. Ground reality is that neither country has bought a new flat on another continent. We are neighbors, we need to figure out functional interactions. Regardless of who is at fault, if we are not happy with what is happening, we have full right to create something that will make us happier. In fact, it is our duty - be it the parent country Pakistan broke off from, a neighboring country, regional interests, whatever.

The objective is to do stuff that changes the dynamics between our countries for the better - non-negotiable. Ideally doesn't include weapons at all. Terrorism is a war of the mind. We will need to fight it with genius ideas, not weapons. The more the diversity in our interventions, the more likely we will be in succeeding. And no, this ideally shouldn't be about dominating at all, because like I wrote in the previous article, when we defeat someone, he's planning revenge before back hits floor. Not what we want.

Also, our actions should be our own, not angry retaliations and reactions. Slap for slap only causes confused rage. There is enough confusion between the two countries already.

So, without further ado, I am sharing some ideas that come to mind. I hope you will add your own.

  • This will probably get me butchered by the Nationalists, but we shouldn't hang Kasab. He is more useful paraded as a living monument to a great wrong. He dies, people forget, 26/11 fits under a nice carpet under some circular talking spokesman. Advantage: Keeping the pressure on for justice.
  • Instead, if we truly believe ISI had a hand in training Kasab, if we believe in Headley's confession, then it is evident that with the ISI funding and retired generals running; retired is another way of saying transferred to classified department. Kasab should be declared a POW and treated according to the Geneva convention. Advantage: Putting the responsibility of the attack solidly where it belongs. Kasab is the soldier assigned to a job, not the one issuing the orders. Another advantage would be psychological. We see that some of the biggest problems leading to violence in Pakistan is the sense of abandonment among the jihadis who fell used and discarded. By acknowledging the relationship openly, we help acknowledgment of that ownership with the Pakistani Army. Hopefully, it leads to less violence at least in Pakistan, which indirectly helps us by allowing their leadership more control over their territory. Even if it doesn't work like that, nothing is lost, for sure, and much is gained in terms of putting our cards on the table.
  • Pakistan is currently going through an educational crisis. We have infrastructure for distance learning. We should be offering that. Naturally, they will not be interested in our history and geography books, but there is a whole lot of science, maths, english programming and possibly further education that we can easily offer. This should ideally be extended to other educational programmes for children. We have some very good, fun stuff for kids. Important that we make sure we don't include any content that will make them want to reject it. Which means, we shut up on history, geography, religion, or any kind of blame games. Advantage: This doesn't need a single Indian to set foot on their soil. It offers a quick and effective way of getting skills of critical thinking among the population. If it fails, nothing is lost.
  • We already have some acceptance for their performers. We can continue that as long as we have declared Kasab POW - as in, not random civilian. Advantage: Pakistani viewership. Attitudes spread through role models. The more time spent on some soap opera, the less time spent on being brainwashed.
  • Pakistan's problem with extremism is essentially a social experiment gone hideously out of control. The idea to mass manipulate thinking to unite the country in hatred for a common enemy and create an abundant supply of warriors has mutated into people becoming very susceptible to suggestions of hate and the warriors working for anyone who can give them something "wrong" to avenge. As such, social scientists should be engaged in designing and advising interventions that will help create transformations in society. This may mean advising on policy, designing of media, planning specific interventions... Pakistan should also be encouraged to use the services of someone they would trust (not our recommendations). There are many organizations of good standing with scientists who have devoted their lives to studying the dynamics among people. India has a few too. Social scientists with an understanding of unconscious processes and Appreciative Inquiry might be very useful in creating much needed psychological relief and transformation. Advantage: Reversing some of the damage of extremism damaging both countries. To be on the same footing, we might as well plan interventions for India for some of the social issues plaguing our society - female gendericide, dowry, caste system, corruption, depression, distrust, religious differences.... we have many things to heal too.
  • Encouraging filmmakers to make films that would create awareness and integration on any of many issues plaguing both countries - possibly making them tax free? Advantage: Greater market for our films, triggering new thought.
  • Develop intelligence capabilities - not new agencies which add yet another loop to the mis-coordination, but add to the efficiency of existing agencies. Troubleshoot intel failures, raise the bar. Get some serious pressure in there to show results. Advantage: Prevention. Always better than retaliation.
  • Develop ability to sabotage terrorist camps. How is a matter of the specialists, but it must be done.And it isn't about politicians claiming their two minutes of glory by announcing that India has capabilities to for surgical strikes, etc. Covert operations. Advantage: It is a must. You can't go to war, you don't want to suffer attacks, you MUST find a way to sabotage terrorists and keep them off balance - if possible eliminate.
  •  Learn to use our leverage effectively. To be able to proactively counter threats, we are going to seriously need to learn how to manage the dialogue. Rhetoric and finger pointing must be replaced with meaningful and useful communication that is clear and delivers on what it says it will. Whether it is about need to reign in terrorists, or a collaborative effort for mutual gain. The message must be clear, and it must not be repeated ad nauseaum. If it gets ignored, follow on the plan B, and your next message gets received better. And state Plan Bs that you are willing to execute, not noisy threats. Advantage: Gets rid of the clutter, provides a clear picture and actionable failure points post which other options can be engaged.

These are some ideas. And I am just one brain. I think, we have enough people who are very creative who can come up with many, many more ideas that can bypass existing blocks to address existing agreed upon underlying problems. We should find a way to invite ideas.

Extremists exist in every society. What keeps them sane in most places is that they are outnumbered by people with more balanced (or opposite 😛 ) thought. This is not an impossible goal if we don't insist on butting our heads against existing walls.

I accept that none of these ideas are an instant solution, but at least they have a fairly good chance of working, and will do no harm if they fail - which is more than what our current ideas are doing.

I'd like you to give this some thought too, and if you think of something ingenious - something that will invite change without forcing it.... add it to comments. If our government takes this seriously, we might as well have a start on a pool of ideas - some of which may be usefully tried out by entities other than our government.

Want to end with saying, be kind, okay? I'm trying to contribute to, not undermine our country's objectives. Disagree, but try not to lynch me.

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I got thinking about this, and it has led to some pretty deep thoughts, which as usual are likely to offend all parties involved indiscriminately, so if you are easily offended, do yourself a favor and stop reading.

I have no doubt that Muslims who say Islam is a religion of peace believe it from the bottom of their soul. I also have no trouble understanding the outrage at some happenings in the name of Islam. Most people are horrified that Muslims don't condemn killing of non-Muslims. For example, the ghastly mob killings at the UN office in Afghanistan, because some obscure pastor in the back of beyond burnt a Koran. There were massive protests. It isn't like a few people quietly killed a few more people.

However, Terry Jones does make the point he started out to make - challenging this facade of Islam being a moderate religion. While I have no doubt that Muslims do believe that they are genuinely peaceful, I find that the more religious they are, the more their descriptions of peace and justice and other good values become unrecognizable, though we use the same word "peace". To many peace loving Muslims, there is absolutely nothing wrong in someone desecrating the Koran to be killed. The killers are heroes and defenders of Islam. We can't even call them inhuman, because their laws ARE different from ours and so is their spiritual guidance. Death is not something they shy from - possibly are more honest about it than the rest of the world. By our standards, this is wrong, but the part the world does not get is that they aren't applying our standards. They have not idolized life and death and sanctity and such things, which frankly, the world has idolized in claim, but does not respect. I am not calling them good or bad, but it is clear that calling a Muslim peaceful is extremely misleading, not because they aren't - they are, but because their idea of peaceful includes many things ours doesn't. And then again, it isn't all Muslims. Many have adopted western standards, so when they say peaceful, they mean it exactly like we do.

It is not good or evil. It is simply a different culture, and the faster the we accept that, the better it is going to be for the world. The middle east is not the west. In their rush to be accepting of people of a new culture, they have chosen to believe things and now they are blaming Muslims for not living up to those standards. What standards? It was never a Muslims idea to let a Koran burning go unpunished though a few may have agreed on being asked/challenged. We want to make friends of them, but on our standards - even in their country.

It is like going to some nudist beach and judging the people by their lack of clothes, or judging a cannibal tribe for eating people. Its food, damnit! I had read about a tribe I don't want to name here and they aren't cannibals anymore, because it isn't about them, but a quote remains in mind "How much more can you defeat your enemy than not just kill them, but eat them!". An utterly alien thought that makes perfect sense in a different culture. Or the outrage of the guest in another tribe to find that his dog had been considered a gift and was now on the table for dinner. The Dalai Lama is a symbol for peace, but if you read the history of Tibet and some of the nightmarish tortures that were routine punishments... There is a huge diversity of cultures, which are coming closer as the world is better connected. Even among the so called standardized "values" that are eating up individuality, we have conflicts - torture of prisoners is routine in many countries regardless of what anyone says for or against it.

Terry Jones makes an important point, that governments the world over need to consider - to stop using cliches and labels to define an entire category of people, because this leads to confusion. In India, for example, the public has mostly accepted this. We have accepted completely the reality that regardless of how things should be, we are a people who will rise to kill and die for religion, and because we don't want that, we make extra effort to avoid such triggers. Religious insults are rare and usually by political figures rather than religious leaders (not always). There is a strong narrative for respecting all religions, which holds the people to sanity and the voice calling for violence then is the jarring note. But we went through hell before we realized the value of not avenging everything.

Sometimes it fails, as it did in the communal riots (actually it was born then), or at Gujarat. Modi couldn't have done one bit of harm if people weren't in the mood to be intolerant. This was a failure to integrate that gets blamed on one man so others can excuse their own petty hates. The main reason that Gujarat could recover has nothing to do with Modi either. It is the strength of the voice that rose against those actions. AND it was the Hindu voices disowning and condemning those actions that had impact. The Muslims would have condemned of course. It was only to be expected. A clear line was drawn - this shit has nothing to do with avenging Hindu honor.

Less noticed was the outrage against Vastanvi for asking Gujarat to move from complaining to progress, but it was an important milestone for Indian Muslims. When the traditional line was outraged at this seeming pacifism, the masses recognized it for what it was - moving with purpose. Another line was drawn - don't make it a rule for Muslims to always be hostage to some or the other agenda and prevent growth.

I am not attacking or defending anything at all. I am, myself an atheist and happy to burn any book in the world, as long as I am able to reference the knowledge I want. I am simply trying to look into the factors that result in these clash of civilizations kind of scenarios.

It appears to me that our stereotypes are failing us. When one person says "peace" he may mean peace as in non-violent. Another may mean the peace of being true to your value systems. You can see how a value system that honors killing in the name of religion does not connect killings of religious offenders with lack of peace. In fact, they would probably call it making the world more peaceful by getting rid of the sinners.

By whitewashing the whole thing, we disable ourselves from seeing the bite sized chunks that can be addressed and resolved. If we were able to look at it as say "day to day functional interaction" or "country above religion" etc - the ones who are not able to do this become visible and something can be done to resolve the situation rather than making assumptions that them calling themselves peaceful means that they will accept that the Supreme Court is greater than the Mullah.

I remember reading on some "anti-jihad" variety forum, where the chief occupation of people seems to be criticizing Islam and Muslims for perfectly logical reasons repeated infinitely. There was this utterly, beautifully, delightfully naive Indian who commented something along the lines of "We all should live like brothers because all religions are equal". The thread erupted in pandemonium. There were people who called him a Muslim pretending to be a Hindu, asked him about not speaking up against extremists, terrorists, etc, convincing about the evils of Islam.... the works. I cannot dispute any of the data they brought up, it is true. However, what I found ironic was that this was a group of people blaming Islam for being intolerant of other religions bringing the roof down because someone suggested co-existence!

Reminds me of those much ridiculed posters during the cartoon riots - Kill those who say Islam is a violent religion.

We are easily outraged by the inconsistency of another, but we fail to recognize it within us. And I include me in this. I remember going to the Jama Masjid one Eid night many years ago. I wanted to see how it is. It was glorious. Wonderful. Bright lights, Happy people, much celebration, excellent food.... but, in the background, I was totally terrified that someone would find out that I was "Hindu" and "something would happen". I had never been around so many Muslims before. Thankfully, nothing happened. The friend whose house I visited teased me mercilessly about my fears, but to help me feel safer, sent her brother to escort me out of the area after my visit was done. Said brother was Muslim of course, but that's different. I knew him. Huh? Illogical.

Stereotypes have an important function in life. They give us the broad understanding on something. However, they usually fail on intimacy, as they are a generalization, and emerging individual details demolish them. Then these stereotypes become dysfunctional.

All the arguments are correct. I am not disputing the logic of anything. I am asking for creativity out here. What else can we try? How else can we define the terrorists/extremists or other wrong actions so that we don't amputate a leg to remove a wart? Are there more useful ways of achieving this merger of civilizations other than wars, judgments and ill will?

Note: I am not recommending anything at all. I am throwing in a few things that came to my mind, and asking if we can be more innovative in how we manage our shared world.