Saturday, July 09, 2011
My email to a typical PC MC Indian, Amit Varma
As 1389 pointed out in a recent essay, Amit Varma's defense of the Blogosphere is well articulated. His first point about the merits of blogging, however, focuses unduly on the potential for immediacy:
1. Blogging captures the moment. One of the most attractive things about blogging to a mainstream journalist is that it has immediacy, and is not a slave to news cycles. A newspaper journalist, if he sees something today, will find it published tomorrow. A blogger can put it out there within five minutes, and it can be read (and linked) around the world in ten...
Varma here neglects to mention the other side of the temporal coin here, which blogging -- unlike other more traditional forms journalism media -- also facilitates: nullifying the whole concept of obsolescence. There is no reason, for example, that an essay, event or news story from last month, or last year, or ten years ago, cannot be brought to life again in a blog in order to be analyzed from a new angle. In the more traditional forms of journalism media, this is only rarely done, in the special "retrospective" format; while the vast majority of old news is relegated to History, in the form of books one has to check out from a library or buy in a bookstore.
With blogging, the line between News and History has become blurred, and while the Immediate may be more electric and lightning-fast with the Blogosphere and the "Twitterverse", the Past and the Present may often flow together, depending entirely on the relevance of the blogging of the moment.
With the problem of Islam, for example, there is a wealth of data of examples of atrocities and demonstrations of hate speech and intolerance by Muslims not only from the present, but from the recent past, and further back, the more distant past.
And closely related to this, there is a wealth of data about various Westerners (and Modern Indians) demonstrating various degrees of naive ignorance about the problem of Islam -- not only from the present, but also from the recent (or more distant) past.
Case in point: at the click of a mouse and a few keystrokes, I can pluck out an essay Varma wrote over a year ago, in May of 2010, in order to bring it back into our present for critical review and to illustrate an unfortunately timeless tendency, among too many people throughout the modern world, to whitewash Muslims:
Our prime exhibit today -- his article “Internet Hindus and Madrasa Muslims” from his blog India Uncut, in which the following sentiment was, to my by now wearily unsurprised dismay, found:
I see three distinct kinds of forces in Pakistan...
He then goes on to list first the TMOEWATHI (Tiny Minority of Extremists Who Are Trying to Hijack Islam); and secondly certain government supporters of extremists; concluding with his oh so hopeful third category:
...civil society, which wants what people everywhere want: peace, prosperity and a good future for themselves and their children. This, I believe, is most of Pakistan.
As Varma apparently doesn’t allow comments, I emailed him the following response to his ridiculously rose-colored assessment of his nation's Northern enemies:
85% of Pakistani Muslims favor segregation of men and women in the workplace.
82% of Pakistani Muslims favor stoning adulterers.
76% of Pakistani Muslims favor the death penalty for apostasy [leaving Islam].
2) From the BBC:
“A large majority of Pakistani people support the idea that blasphemers should be punished, but there is little understanding of what the religious scripture says as opposed to how the modern-day law is codified. The response to recent events suggests that they largely believe the law, as codified by the military regime of General Zia-ul Haq back in the 1980s, is in fact straight out of the Koran and therefore is not man-made. The organised religious groups are promoting this view and have been able to mobilise mass support in their favour. Their highest point came when the assassin of Governor Salman Taseer was hailed as a hero by a large section of people across the country.”
79% of Pakistani Muslim believe a person accused of “blasphemy” should not be allowed to preach to others.
65% believe that a “blasphemous” person should be tried for heresy. [And what's the penalty for a guilty verdict under Islamic hudud laws? Hm?]
69% believe a “blasphemous” book should be removed from libraries.
50% believe a “blasphemous” person should be fired from a government job.
4) Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who once studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is suspected of having links to Al Qaeda. She was convicted by a New York court in February of trying to kill American military officers while in custody in 2008 in Afghanistan. She faces life in prison when she is sentenced in May. In Pakistan, she has become a national symbol of honor and victimization so potent that politicians of all stripes, Islamists, the news media and an increasingly anti-American public have all lined up to champion her claim of innocence.
5) “Most Pakistanis see the United States as an enemy, consider it a potential military threat and oppose American-led anti-terrorism efforts,” Pew said.”
I then concluded my email with a rhetorical question dripping with bitter sarcasm:
What were you saying again about “most of Pakistan”…?