The offer by Pakistan's railways minister, Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, for suborning the murder of an American amateur film-maker, of $100,000 of his own money for a murder – despite his colleagues' attempts to distance themselves - only reminds us of what a mess of untruths and half-truths we allow to persist.
For instance, there is the one about Pakistan being our 'ally'. Britain and the United States give many millions of dollars a year in aid to that country. More is always expected and promised. By 2015 the UK's aid budget alone could have doubled in a few years, with the UK sending £446 million a year to the country. There are almost no justifications for this. Corruption remains rampant, as does poverty, indoctrination, anti-Western propaganda, and more.
Minister Bilour's offer has apparently already been added to by a Lahore businessman who has popped an extra $400,000 into the murder kitty, pointing out that freedom of speech must not be used as an excuse to '"insult" Islam. For any sane person, the gut instinct to this is straightforward: "If that amount of cash is floating around then let them pay for their own aid programs and schools." Except that they don't, or can't, or won't. Which raises the much bigger question: What on Earth do you have to do not to be considered an "ally" these days?
Here is a possible initiative. Before each handing-over of any cheque, perhaps we might explain how much more might be done by, and how much more expected of, our "allies" in the way of not encouraging people to hate us. Because of one crummy internet film and a few French cartoons, we have all just been once again treated to hours of sermonising about what an insult all of this is (and in particular how it is felt as the most grievous insult by 1.3 billion or 1.4 billion or sometimes 2 billion Muslims worldwide, who are all said to feel exactly the same way all the time). And these lectures are not only from obscure clerics. They come from the leaders of some of our closest "allies," who claim that it is understandable when a film nobody has to watch is responded to with murder.
Perhaps rather than falling for the obscene pretense that a film-maker and a murderous mob are two sides of the same coin, we could make a more honest comparison. Such as, for instance, a truth that anyone who has ever travelled around almost any Muslim majority county will know: that they are themselves absolutely rife with the vilest caricatures, programs, films and books. And these are not one-offs. These are the staple diet. The works of Adolf Hitler and other anti-Semitic tracts are a mainstay of the bookshops in even some of the most 'advanced' Arab cities. I recall standing at Cairo station a couple of years back, searching the bookstalls for something to read on the journey. But there was almost nothing in the way of traditional train-reading fare. If you were into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories then you were set. If you wanted some texts about the awfulness of the Jews or the wondrousness of Hitler then you had arrived at the right place. But if you wanted a nice romantic novel or a comic novella then you were flat out of luck.
Over recent years MEMRI.org, Palwatch.org and a few other organizations have done an amazing job at waking people up to these facts. They have done so by capturing and translating many of the television programs which go down as prime-time viewing in exactly those countries which are now complaining about "blasphemy," "hurt feelings" and other declared outrages. As they have shown, Egyptian television has never had any problem staging the fraudulent ninteenth-century book -- taken in much of the Arab and Muslim world as irrefutable fact - The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion in various productions. Al-Manar television has never had a problem, anymore than have various Palestinian television channels, in pumping out the most straightforward hate-speech and incitement on a daily basis. Nor has the print press (which in these cases, unlike in the West, actually is government controlled) been any better.
Just take the last few weeks. Recently the excellent Tom Gross compiled a gallery of recent cartoons published in various Muslim-majority countries in the wake of the latest film controversy.They include examples from publications such as the Fars News Agency, Al-Bayan, Al Watan and Ar-Raya. That is, they are not only cartoons from state-run media in Iran, naturally, but also from Oman, Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia. In other words, not only in states that are stated enemies, but in those we tend to think of – in our soppy old way – as "friends." But as the Gross piece demonstrates, this is not "one-off" extremism': it is the norm – a perfectly acceptable mainstay of the mainstream papers in some of our most mainstream allies across the region.
Perhaps pointing out this ridiculous hypocrisy does no good to the people guilty of it. After all, we must remember, these opponents are people who say that unless we say that their religion is peaceful they will kill us. In Pakistan they include people who countered the Youtube film with a 'Love for the Prophet' day which ended in rioting, burnings and dozens of injuries and deaths. It is unlikely that sections among these people are any time soon likely to listen carefully, place one or both hands to their foreheads and say, 'Oh - I see!'
This is not only about them. It is about us. In America, Britain and the West we continue to go through the usual farces of international comity: state visits here, aid donations there. All just rubbing along nicely while we concede that every now and then the consulate or embassy will be burned to the ground, a minister will call for the killing of one of our citizens on our own turf. Our opponents lack many things, including any sense of irony. But has anybody other than us ever had so little common sense?