This Guy Threatened to Burn Down a Pepsi Truck Over QR Codes

The man didn’t know what a QR code was and believed it contained an Arabic inscription of the Prophet Muhammad’s name.

Podcaster Imran Noshad Khan was walking on a busy road in Pakistan’s seafront city Karachi on New Year’s Eve, when he noticed a crowd forming around a parked Pepsi beverage truck.

He heard two men fighting on the side of the street. One of them was pointing at the QR code on a 7Up bottle, a soft drink distributed under the Pepsi brand. He said something that made Khan stop in his tracks. 

“One of the men was saying [to the 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’,” Khan told VICE World News. 

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Khan walked up to the man threatening the truck driver and asked him what the commotion was about. The man, who identified himself as Mullah, insisted Khan take out his phone to record a video of his statement. 

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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 acknowledge Khan’s attempts at clarifying that the inscription is a QR code.

Beverage companies often use QR codes on bottles and cans for consumers to scan in order to access more nutritional and manufacturing information. 

Mullah went on to say, “I request the company to remove this mark. I will be grateful if they do but if they don’t, there will be a big war. We will lie down in front of this truck and we will burn it down.” He then threatens that if his demand is not met within two or three days, he would set fire to any of the company’s trucks he’d come across. 

“I can do anything for Allah. I can sacrifice my life for him. Why is my Prophet’s name written here?” Mullah said. 

“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 Jammat-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.”

PepsiCo Pakistan did not respond to VICE World News’ requests for comment. However, Khan said a representative from the local Pepsi partner and franchise owner Pakistan Beverage Limited, which owned the truck, reached out to him and thanked him for his help. The company said they were trying to ensure the safety of their staff in light of the incident. 

Follow Rimal Farrukh on Twitter.

Tagged:

Πακιστάν, blasphemy, pepsi, south asia, QR codes, 7up, worldnews

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