The Power of Protest
Today's guest blogger is Hafsa Arain, an intern at the Interfaith Youth Core. Born in Karachi, Pakistan and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, she is a senior at DePaul University, where she works with University Ministry as a Student Interfaith Scholar, and is on the board of the Muslim Students' Association, UMMA.
I find it really interesting that Thomas Friedman, like other scholars and thinkers, needs Muslims (or in this case, Pakistanis) to actively demonstrate against terrorism, extremism, fundamentalism, whatever you want to call it. I completely understand why this is a popular idea, but I have a few problems with it.
Large populations of Muslims, as well as other groups of people around the world, have a lot of civil rights issues that need to be dealt with. Their problems consist of poverty, starvation, disease, government oppression, sometimes violent living conditions, and more. This is true for, sadly, a large population of the world; it is not limited to Muslims. So instead of asking why Muslims don't stand up against extremism, I think our question should be why people feel the need to resort to violence in the first place.
Yes, fundamentalists are, in many ways, irrational. How, then, do they have such clout in their areas? Because they promise things that protesting cannot: results. Whether or not they receive the food, clothing, and shelter that were promised, the fact that someone gave them their word is powerfully enticing.
In many cases, protests have not worked for the rest of the world. Here in the United States, we are unbelievably fortunate to have the power of protest with us, and the right to actively demonstrate whenever we feel the need or reason. However, when Sikh groups in Punjab, India protested for more governmental representation, they were ignored. When a few of them turned to violence, suddenly their government was paying attention, but with negative attention.
Protest only works if people can believe in their own power of change. I know many Pakistani people have lost that belief. Their mistrust in the Pakistani government is high, and that is not going to be rectified soon. This is why you don't see Pakistanis protesting their own government, but rather Denmark's. Because in Denmark, they might have a say.
The content of this blog reflects the views of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of either Eboo Patel or the Interfaith Youth Core.
December 15, 2008; 12:37 PM ET
Religion & Leadership
Religion & Politics
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Posted by: politicallyincorrectworldcitizen1 | December 15, 2008 5:50 PM
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