Blasphemy mania is widespread in Pakistan. Allegations of blasphemy against Islam and its prophet Mohammed are commonly used to settle personal scores and target minorities.
This madness can erupt anytime, anywhere. In another such expression of deep-rooted religious fanaticism in Pakistani society, an incident has come to light from Karachi, Pakistani’s largest and relatively most cosmopolitan city.
Podcaster Imran Noshad Khan was walking on a busy road on New Year’s Eve, when he noticed a crowd forming around a parked Pepsi beverage truck and heard two men fighting. One of them was pointing at the QR code on a 7Up bottle, a soft drink distributed under the Pepsi brand, angrily saying to the delivery truck driver, “This has Prophet Muhammad’s name written on it. I’m going to set fire to your truck. I’m going to kill you if you don’t fix this”.
The man, who identified himself as Mullah, insisted Khan take out his phone to record a video of his statement.
In the video that has since gone viral on social media, Mullah holds up the 7Up bottle and points at the QR code printed on its side and says, “Look, it has Muhammad’s name written on it.” Mullah then refuses to accept Khan’s explanation that the inscription is a QR code. He says he wants the company to remove the mark, else there will be a big jung (war) and if his demand is not met within 2-3 days he and his accomplices can set fire to any such truck carrying Pepsi soft drinks.
“I can do anything for Allah. I can sacrifice my life for him. Why is my nabi’s (prophet’s) name written here?” Mullah said.
As per a report in US news outlet Vice –
“He was speaking with such passion like he was full of lava. I felt his spit land on my face – he was talking with such force. His eyes were red and he was sweating. When I saw that, I got scared feeling that I have gotten involved in the wrong situation and that I could be in danger, too,” said Khan.
Khan wasn’t wrong to be fearful. In Pakistan, where blasphemy is a crime punishable by death, even the semblance of blasphemy or any content interpreted as offensive to Islam can spark mob-led attacks. Last month, a Sri Lankan factory manager in the city of Sialkot accused of tearing stickers bearing the Prophet Muhammad’s name was lynched to death by a crowd chanting anti-blasphemy slogans. Since 1990, around 77 people have been killed in anti-blasphemy mob violence in the country.
After recording the video, Khan attempted to defuse the situation by trying to reason with Mullah and the crowd, which had become increasingly aggressive. Khan helped the truck driver get back into his vehicle to escape the scene. As Khan himself began to depart, Mullah cried out to him saying that he was a part of the extremist group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, that he had “fought in Kashmir”, and that he has connections in “high places,” insinuating that the matter won’t end with them departing.
Khan has not reported the incident to the police and has yet to be contacted by provincial government authorities, whom he tagged when he uploaded the video on Twitter.
“Even if they did [contact me], I would never go to them or sit with them to discuss it. Our government plays the religion card itself. This is how they run their business,” said Khan. “When it comes to such problems, they ignore it.”
Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) is a front organization of the Pakistani ISI created terror group Laskhar-e-Taiba led by Hafeez Saeed which carried out the 26/11 attacks. JuD has its head quarters in Murdike, near Lahore, and carries out social welfare and charity activities to mask the terror operations of parent LeT.
Any visual depiction of Mohammed is considered offensive and blasphemous by Muslims, as they believe it can lead to temptation toward ‘idol worship’. While the Quran does not explicitly prohibit depictions of Mohammed, contemporary Muslims worldwide abide by the ban, based largely on religious rulings by Islamic scholars. But going by this episode in Karachi, it seems some Muslim fundamentalists are now extending the ban even towards written representations of their prophet.