Terra Incognita: A little pogrom in Bangladesh

The Western press was quite concerned about not reporting about the destruction of Hindu temples in Pakistan and burning of Buddhist temples in Bangladesh. After all, mentioning how fanaticism actually results in attacks on religious minorities might make the Barack/Clinton appeasement broadcast seem foolish.

Burnt Buddhist temple 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Burnt Buddhist temple 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In late September, the US State Department purchased $70,000 worth of ads on Pakistani television. Pakistanis who tuned in were able to see a message by US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton addressing anger about an anti-Islam youtube clip in the US.
“Since our founding, the US has been a nation that respects all faiths and ejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.… Let me state clearly, and I hope it is obvious, the US government had nothing to do with this video, we absolutely reject its content and message.”
The message was supposed to preempt Pakistani riots.
Pakistan has a history of rioting. In November of 1979 Pakistanis rushed from their homes after hearing a radio broadcast that the United States had bombed the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. The actual story was that a Saudi Arabian Islamist fanatic had taken over the mosque. The US was not involved. But Pakistani rioters don’t look for facts.
Instead, the rioters sought out the American Embassy in Pakistan and burned it to the ground. Two Americans were murdered. In 1989, following the publication of Salman Rushdi’s The Satanic Verses, 10,000 Pakistanis attacked the American Cultural Center in Islamabad. Six of the protestors died in the incident.
What is nice about this knee-jerk Pakistani reaction to almost anything that the mobs think is offensive, even things that are patently untrue, is that Pakistan has received over $30 billion in US aid. An April 2012 Congressional Research Report noted, “Pakistan has been among the leading recipients of US foreign assistance both historically and in recent years. The country arguably is as important to forwarding US security interests as any in the world.”
During the September debacle in which the US president and secretary of state begged the Pakistanis not to be outraged, a little-covered incident took place. After the protestors were done burning American flags, they turned their attention to destroying movie theaters, veritable dens of immorality. And when the satanic theaters had been burned, protestors in Karachi attacked a Hindu neighborhood.
Hindus form a small minority in Pakistan.
According to Al-Jazeera, which was the only major media outlet to report the story, the protestors ransacked the Sri Krishna temple, burned a holy book and bashed Hindu statues. Then they broke into people’s homes and stole jewelry and valuables. This is, of course, ironic since the protestors were ostensibly protesting the insult to their religion.
What better way to protest the insult to Islam, by a random man in California, than to beat on some Hindus and steal their jewelry? The US State Department didn’t pay for any ads in Pakistan to explain that burning Hindu statues is wrong. Because, while the State Department is clear that one must reject the message of the anti-Islam video, it doesn’t seem to see too much of a problem with some good old jingoistic bashing of minorities.
This is interesting, since one of the State Department’s goals is supposedly to “provide basic education support, such as building schools and providing funds for text books and teachers; and improve the quality of universities in Pakistan.”
Obviously the education isn’t working, at least not in making people tolerant.
BUT PAKISTAN isn’t the only place where a glaring and offensive pogrom against minorities took place recently. In Bangladesh, which until 1973 was known as East Pakistan, another event went under-reported.
On October 2, according to a report in Al-Jazeera, “Crowds of Muslims descended onto Ramu after pictures desecrating Islam and the Koran were found on the Facebook page of a young Buddhist man living in the area.”
In another report from Dubai-based Big News Network, it was noted that: “the Buddhists moved to safety after an overnight weekend attack in which thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims burned at least 10 Buddhist temples and 40 homes in anger over a Facebook photo of a burned Quran.”
The temples were over 250 years old. However, it appears that the photos said to belong to the Buddhist were in fact only tagged with his name and were download by local imams and passed around. According to Madrasa teacher Shamsul Haque, who downloaded the photos, the “Muslims in this community wanted justice and are fed up with being insulted.”
So, even though no one actually insulted them, and in fact it was their own clerics who downloaded offensive pictures and ascribed them to a random Buddhist man, the mobs were set in motion. As Al-Jazeera noted, “The last time there was any violence against the Buddhist community was in 1966 when a young Buddhist boy eloped with a Muslim girl and scores were injured in the communal clashes that followed.”
In 1989, when the supposed offense caused by Rushdie’s book led mobs to murder and pillage throughout the world, a Harvard lecturer named S. Nomanhul Haq was quick to join the chorus of people in the West condemning Rushdie, rather than the rioters and murderers.
In a submission to The New York Times titled “Salman Rushdi, blame yourself,” Haq wrote: “The Muslim nations have not gone through the turmoil’s of the Enlightenment and they have seen no scientific revolution; their sensibilities are different. Often, a peaceful demonstration is not their way and we cannot change them overnight. The best thing is to avoid hitting their most sensitive chords.”
Haq exorcised Rushdie for showing no sympathy for the rioters that died during their extreme outburst. Haq’s notions are alive and well today.
There is a belief in the West that the outraged mobs, the “spontaneous” mobs, are acting on a real grievance. They are “different” since they didn’t experience the “Enlightenment” and therefore “a peaceful demonstration is not their way.”
Not their way? Surely we once heard that about the pogroms related to the blood libel. On July 4, 1946 the Polish people of the town of Kielce in Poland set upon their Jewish neighbors – Jews who had only recently survived the Holocaust. They had heard that the Jews had kidnapped a young boy, so they killed 40 of them in a pogrom. Undoubtedly the local Polish men and women, as they beat the Jews to death and gouged out their eyes, were, in their hearts, truly offended that a Polish boy had gone missing, even if in fact no boy had actually gone missing.
Evidently “a peaceful protest was not their way.” The Polish way in Kielce was the pogrom, based on the rumor.
The Pakistanis go one better. Based on a perceived insult in far-away USA, they raid Hindu temples and steal from minorities. It isn’t that peaceful protest is not their way, it is that rioting and bashing minorities is their way. It isn’t that they didn’t receive the Enlightenment. Just because people didn’t read Voltaire, doesn’t mean they must burn down the temples of other religions.
There is nothing to hum and haw over about rioters and fanatics. The Polish villagers, in their unquenched hatred and zeal, still not satiated in 1946 even though some three million of their Jewish countrymen had been murdered, had to kill 40 more people based on some rumors.
What differentiates them from the mobs in Bangladesh? Except we certainly don’t worry too much about the Polish “motivation” or their “sensitive chord.” But evidently the Western press was quite concerned about not reporting about the destruction of Hindu temples in Pakistan and burning of Buddhist temples in Bangladesh.
After all, mentioning how fanaticism actually results in attacks on religious minorities might make the Barack/Clinton appeasement broadcast seem foolish. It might make the billions in aid to Pakistan and its “education” system, seem ridiculous.