Pakistan declares national holiday for trashing America

They have film censors in America, don't they?

By Nicholas Nehamas

Pakistanis burn an American flag at a rally in Peshawar, September 18th, 2012. (Reuters)

Muslims around the world continue to vent their frustrations at the United States over the controversial film “Innocence of Muslims,” though “film” is perhaps too elevated a word. The cheesy anti-Islam flick looks like it was written by the folks who gave us that smash hit, “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and shot by an untalented group of fifth graders.

As angry protestors hit the streets, what’s a Muslim government to do? Shut down the demonstrations and they’ll be seen as tacitly approving blasphemy against the prophet. Allow them to continue unchecked, and they risk spawning the violence that’s overwhelmed Libya, Egypt and other nations.

Pakistan makes it official: skip work, join the protests

Pakistan’s beleaguered government is trying to restrain the widespread anger by co-opting it. Under pressure from Muslim leaders, reports the newspaper Dawn, Pakistan’s federal cabinet announced it would declare Friday to be an official “day of expression of love for the prophet.” Judging from ongoing protests, it sounds like we can safely expect more hatred for America than love for Muhammad.

Anti-American sentiment is quickly spiraling out of the government’s control, the paper reports: “Around 500 protesting lawyers broke through a gate to Islamabad’s heavily-guarded diplomatic enclave on Wednesday, chanting anti-US slogans and castigating the Pakistan government for its ‘criminal silence’ over the film.”

The day before, protesters staged large rallies outside the U.S. mission in Peshawar and the American consulate in Karachi as furious Pakistanis burned American flags.

President Asif Ali Zardari  has taken a great deal of internal criticism for continuing to align his government with America and allowing the CIA to conduct drone strikes in Pakistan’s territory (accusations of corruption don’t help his case either.) Shutting down the protests would likely further inflame public opinion, and Zardari’s interior minister says that the ruling Pakistan’s People Party will join the march on Friday, Dawn reports.

Businesses in many of Pakistan’s major cities are expected to shut down for the holiday so their employees can join the protests. In Hyderabad, Pakistani officials have opened an investigation against one businessman for blasphemy, a crime punishable by life in prison or death. His accusers say the man refused to shut down the shops he owns in solidarity with already ongoing anti-American rallies. The city police chief says there’s no evidence this happened and that an angry crowd forced the police to look into the charges. Talk about mob rule.

Now, judges in Pakistan have ordered the nation’s telecommunications authority to block internet access to the controversial video, something that’s already happened in Bangladesh and Afghanistan. YouTube has so far resisted taking down clips of the movie, citing free speech guarantees. But the site’s owners, Google, may soon give in after Pakistan shut down YouTube, a technique that’s produced results for Saudi Arabia.

Why are they so mad? A day at the protests in Cairo

Egypt’s new government has proven similarly unable to control public anger against America. In a fascinating, lengthy piece in the Egypt Independent, Ali Abdei Mohsen describes venturing into the crowds and talking to the protestors. In some sense, he writes, the whole thing is a tragic misunderstanding, not that that makes the violence any more palatable or any less destructive:

Like most protesters at the scene, Ibrahim believes “Innocence of Muslims” is a Hollywood production that, like any local or international film released in Egypt, and presumably elsewhere, passes through several rounds of censorship and receives official state approval from its own government before seeing the light of day.

Egypt’s government, led by the Muslim Brotherhood has proven unable to flush out the protestors from Tahrir Square, as it promised to do, and the mood in Cairo remains tense, angry and bitter, Mohsen reports. He cites one sign, in English, that read: “If America says they understand freedom of expression, they must be coooooool [sic] with us.”

Other Egyptians carried the flag of fundamentalist Saudi Arabia and black banners proclaiming that “There is no God but God.”

“Peaceful, peaceful,” cry a few bystanders, employing the phrase that united the protestors during the uprising against the American-backed military dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, suggesting the uprising is an example of Washington’s chickens coming home to roost.

Russian communists hate America too

Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov isn’t winning friends in America. (Reuters)

Speaking of payback . . . 

The Russian communist leader Gennady Zyuganov probably doesn’t have too many allies in the U.S. He has even fewer today after sending out a Tweet earlier this week that said: “The American ambassador to Libya was shot like the lowest dog. He was the main expert on the Libyan ‘revolution.’ He reaped what he sowed.”

If Zyuganov were to come to power —unlikely we know — no one would doubt Mitt Romney’s assertion that Russia is the U.S.’s “number one geopolitical foe.

But the former Soviet bureaucrat later tried to distance himself from his social media blunder, telling RIA Novosti that aides had taken his remarks out of context and incorrectly condensed them into the offending Tweet. Zyuganov explained that the phrase “shot like a dog” was meant to express sympathy for the merciless way in which Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed (though he actually died of smoke inhalation). The point of his statement, Zyuganov said, was to criticize NATO for meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.

We’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. How often do you get to write about a man who openly idolizes Joseph Stalin?

And while his comments were no doubt insensitive and meant to provoke, they hardly seem as ill-advised as the decision of a satirical French magazine to publish cartoons featuring a naked prophet Muhammad. Riot police have been assigned to guard the weekly’s offices in Paris.

“We saw what happened last week in Libya and in other countries such as Afghanistan,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at a press conference. “We have to call on all to behave responsibly.”

Paris has announced it will close 20 embassies and schools around the world in a bid to prevent violence against them. No word yet on when Pakistan plans to hold its “Dump on France” day.