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Monthly Archives: June 2010

Fear and silence by Mohsin Hamid


Why are Ahmadis persecuted so ferociously in Pakistan?
(Dawn)

The reason can’t be that their large numbers pose some sort of ‘threat from within’. After all, Ahmadis are a relatively small minority in Pakistan. They make up somewhere between 0.25 per cent (according to the last census) and 2.5 per cent (according to the Economist) of our population.

Nor can the reason be that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. Pakistani Christians and Pakistani Hindus are non-Muslims, and similar in numbers to Pakistani Ahmadis. Yet Christians and Hindus, while undeniably discriminated against, face nothing like the vitriol directed towards Ahmadis in our country.

To understand what the persecution of Ahmadis achieves, we have to see how it works. Its first step is to say that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. And its second is to say that Ahmadis are not just non-Muslims, but apostates: non-Muslims who claim to be Muslims. These two steps are easy to take: any individual Pakistani citizen has the right to believe whatever they want about Ahmadis and their faith.

But the process goes further. Step three is to say that because Ahmadis are apostates, they should be victimised, or even killed. We are now beyond the realm of personal opinion. We are in the realm of group punishment and incitement to murder. Nor does it stop here. There is a fourth step. And step four is this: any Muslim who says Ahmadis should not be victimised or killed, should themselves be victimised or killed.

In other words, even if they are not themselves Ahmadi, any policeman, doctor, politician, or passerby who tries to prevent, or just publicly opposes, the killing of an Ahmadi, deserves to die. Why? Because anyone who defends an apostate is themselves an apostate.

Aha.

This is what the persecution of Ahmadis achieves. It allows any Muslim to be declared an apostate. For the logic can be continued endlessly. When an Ahmadi man is wounded in an attack and goes to a hospital for treatment, if the doctor agrees to treat him, she is helping an apostate, and therefore she becomes an apostate and subject to threats. When a policeman is deputed to protect the doctor, since she is an apostate, the policeman is helping an apostate, so he too becomes an apostate. And on and on.

The collective result of this is to silence and impose fear not just on the few per cent of Pakistanis who are Ahmadis, or even on those who are Christians and Hindus, but on all of us. The message is clear. Speaking out against the problem means you are the problem, so you had better be quiet.

Our coerced silence is the weapon that has been sharpened and brought to our throats.

This is why Nawaz Sharif’s statement in defence of Ahmadis met with such an angry response. Because the heart of the issue isn’t whether Ahmadis are non-Muslims or not. The heart of the issue is whether Muslims can be silenced by fear.

Because if we can be silenced when it comes to Ahmadis, then we can be silenced when it comes to Shias, we can be silenced when it comes to women, we can be silenced when it comes to dress, we can be silenced when it comes to entertainment, and we can even be silenced when it comes to sitting by ourselves, alone in a room, afraid to think what we think.

That is the point.

The writer is the author of the novels Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2010 in Ahmadis

 

Right to vote, by choice or by force?


The right to vote is all we have with little hope for the democratic system to work. Democracy is relatively new and fragile every time it seizes a chance to have a comeback. But it brings huge disappointment when elected representatives take undemocratic steps to exhibit their power and authority unlawfully. It is the story of a legislator from one of the main politic parties who kidnapped and tortured a Christian woman on an excuse that Christians did not vote for him. In front of an influential legislator, the police appeared helpless and hesitated in exercising its authority. On a principal stand, it is obligatory for all political parties to have a system of accountability for its members who come into power to serve. Rather to prove a real opposition, PML-N needs to bring some drastic changes in its policy and the biggest step it needs to take is to make its representatives answerable for what they do.  No one has a right and power to force voters to vote in his/her favour and subsequently no revenge is justified in case of undesirable outcome.

RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Christian woman remained in hospital Monday, June 28, after she was beaten and briefly abducted on the orders of a prominent Pakistani Muslim legislator “because Christians didn’t vote” for him, family and police said.

Komal John, 38, was attacked June 5, by armed men at her home in the city of Rawalpindi, according to witnesses. They arrived in a car of parliamentarian Shakeel Awan of the influential Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party, John’s family said. “Some six armed men came assaulted us and took my wife,” John’s husband and daughter added in a statement. Witnesses said Komal John was beaten before being pushed in the land cruiser vehicle.

The kidnapping reportedly came shortly after Awan fired John as his assistant on June 2 when discovering that a cousin had given the Christian woman money while visiting her when she was ill.

Awan objected to any support for John because “Christians didn’t vote for him” during a recent election in his district, according to Christians familiar with the case.

POLICE RELUCTANT

Local police was initially reluctant to intervene and denied a family request to launch a criminal investigation against Awan, local Christians said.

Awan allegedly had asked police to throw John’s relatives “out of the police station” and warned that “if they will try to file a complaint they will not see Komal again.”

The family contacted Christian advocacy groups, including the Christian Progressive Movement (CPM) and Ephlal Ministry, who said they gathered hundreds of activists outside the police station, blocking roads and shouting slogans to demand Komal’s release.

“Yes Shakeel Awan is a legislator, but that doesn’t mean he can go around and do anything he wants,” CPM Director Nayla J. Dayal told BosNewsLife. “He should be sacked immediately for this inhuman act”.

“UNDERSTANDING PAIN”

A senior police official told the crowd to remain calm. “I understand your pain, I will try my best to recover the lady,” said Rawalpindi District Coordination Officer Chaudhry Aslam Nawaz.

Amid mounting pressure, police reportedly contacted Awan saying that “it would be wise to release the woman”.  She was released around 3am local time June 16, when Awan’s car dropped her at the police station. The woman required hospitalization. No more details were given about her injuries, but investigators ruled out sexual abuse.

No criminal investigation has been launched against the legislator, BosNewsLife established. Awan refused to comment.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2010 in Christians

 

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Hate speech, any end?


What we do depends on what we see, and what we hear. The repetitive voices confirm and reconfirm our thought pattern, which looks simple, but prove damaging in many cases. The propaganda and hate speech are the best examples I could come up with to prove my point. The recent wave of hatred against Ahmadis has taken 84 lives and that too in their mosques in Lahore. Since 1974, the fate of this sect has been pre-written by people and governments of Pakistan. The subsequent laws have not only poisoned millions of minds but also made Muslims or religious leaders’ custodians of religion. Now their life is in the hands of these Mullas who preach hatred and inhumanity on the streets with no realization of consequences. How hate speech can bring havoc and mutilate humanity is no more a mystery. This video is self explanatory. And it also exposes how generous the government can be in giving free hand to these troublesome people in the name of religion which is sheer exploitation.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2010 in Ahmadis

 

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Blasphemy


Hang till Death

Laws are made for protection of citizens of a country, but can fairly or unfairly be tilted towards those whom a State wants to own or disown. Here, some sections under Pakistan Criminal Code (PCC) have been formulated as anti-blasphemy laws which are clearly meant to be protective of state religion, Islam. 295-A forbids outraging religious feelings; 295-B forbids defiling the Quran; and 295-C forbids defaming Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Defiling the Quran merits imprisonment for life and defaming Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) merits death with or without a fine.

These laws, being the most misused, have worked as a shield for bigot and orthodox Muslims who really believe in a place which belongs to all Muslims and that too having same set of beliefs. Christians and Ahmadis clearly have been more affected and facing the wrath of majority in the name of blasphemy. Scores of people have been accused of this crime and on many occasions the crime did not take place the way it was publicized. Hatred for your neigbour, animosity between two families, and a general bias towards non-Muslims could trigger the idea and on this strong ground of blasphemy, it becomes easy and legitimate to take revenge. Scores of people have been victimized so far but the stunning phenomenon is that no proper mechanism has been formalized to confirm and authenticate the alleged crime. Anyone according to his convenience and will can announce that a particular person has said blasphemous words against Prophet, or defiled Quran, and the world believes him assuming that it is in the best interest of religion. Even law enforcing agencies have a clear bias in many cases and if not that they succumb to the popular pressure of majority. We must start a journey towards a destination where such laws do not exist anymore in the interests of humanity. Pakistan should repeal these laws as the governments have failed so far to stop its misuse. Rehmat Masih’s story is not different and indicates the same fate.

Below is the story:

ASIA/PAKISTAN – Yet another Catholic accused of “blasphemy”.
Faisalabad (Agenzia Fides) – “Yet another violation of human rights and another sad example of Pakistan’s ‘blasphemy’ law being misused to strike religious minority groups.” Peter Jacob, Executive Secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, said this to Fides with regard to the latest case of a Catholic being accused of blasphemy.

Mr Rehmat Masih, age 73, resident in the archdiocese of Faisalabad, in the village of Jhandewall, has been reported by a local Muslim, Mr Sajid Hameed, for pronouncing blasphemous words against the Prophet Mohammed. Members of the local Catholic community, which took up the defense of the accused man, told Fides that the charge, clearly false, arose instead from interpersonal disputes over the ownership of land.

“We are confident that the accusations against Rehmat Masih will be lifted because he is innocent. We will stand by him. The Justice and Peace Commission will do everything in its power, at the legal level, and at the level of information and sensitisation, to defend the man publicly”, Peter Jacob told Fides. The secretary added: “The government of Pakistan must wake up and shoulder its responsibilities, at both the legal and the political level, and explain why this law is allowed to harass and abuse innocent Pakistani citizens. Government is sleeping with regard to the question of human rights. What is lacking is real commitment in this field, and a transparent policy of respect for human rights. This happens because the government and parliament are hostages of extremist groups”.
The international community is also called to take action: “ Last May the European Parliament passed a very positive resolution on religious freedom and human rights in Pakistan: we hope to see it implemented very soon. We ask all international institutions to help us build a better Pakistan”, Jacob concludes. According to a recent Report issued by the Pakistan Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission on the Conditions of Religious Minorities in the country, cases of the blasphemy law being misused continue at a high rate all over the country. In 2009 no less than 112 cases were registered against 57 Ahmadi, 47 Muslims and 8 Christians Altogether, since law came into force in 1987, a total number of 1,032 people have been unjustly punished.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2010 in Christians

 

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Convert to Islam or work as a slave


What amazes me the most is the attitude of many Muslims in Pakistan who have voluntarily assumed the responsibility of spreading Islam by hook or by crook. This self -assigned role has a strong link to the preaching of those religious leaders who perform this duty on every nook and corner with a sense of pride. Poisoning thousands of minds is the path that will lead them straight to heaven according to them. I sympathize with this religion—Islam—which is in the hands of wrong people who  have left no option in popularizing it in just a wrong way. The fault lies with interpretations and anyone could come up with his/her own version of Islam here without any fear of accountability.

The teachings of so called religious Mullahs have a strong and long-lasting impact on fragile and vulnerable minds of illiterate and literate people who have gone insane in their pursuit for heaven. This story of 11-year old Christian boy did not come as a shock after putting the context right. A Muslim landlord is desperate for heaven and uses all inhuman ways to compel this boy to convert to Islam. The incentives he has given to this boy seems to me complete blackmailing and the sad part is that no concrete action has been taken so far to rescue this boy from the clutches of insanity. Islam has never wished to have followers with force, and it is a religion of one’s personal choice. But it has been portrayed so negatively that no one can see the original colour of Islam anymore and I would say it is the most misused religion in the world at the moment.

Below is the story:

WAZIRABAD, June 21 (CDN) — An 11-year-old Christian boy here is growing weak and ill from malnutrition from working in slave-like conditions for a Muslim landowner who kidnapped him and is forcing him to work off his family’s debts, his mother told Compass. Katherine Bibi said landowner Ashraf Cheema of Dhonikay village,
Wazirabad, has offered her son better conditions and possibly cancellation of the debt if he will convert to Islam. “He is frequently invited to convert to Islam by Ashraf Cheema, and in return he is promised that he will be freed from the iron chains and his work will be eased and he will be served better meals,” she said. “Cheema has said, ‘The debt of your father and brother might also be forgiven if you convert.’”

Young Danish Masih works without break from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m., often in iron chains, on half a loaf of bread per day, according to Dawood Masih of the National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCJP).

“Due to the lack of sleep and immense physical and mental pressure, he is becoming weaker and ill,” Dawood Masih said. “And he is doing this bonded labor without any kind of leave, including sick leave, for the last one-and-a-half years, in place of his father Riaz Masih and elder brother Adnan Kashif.”

The boy’s father and older brother had been working for Cheema to
pay off a debt of 142,000 rupees (US$1,640), but their employer was neither paying their monthly wages nor deducting the amounts from their debt, said Emmanuel Berkat Gill of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA). Riaz Masih’s monthly wage was 3,000 rupees (US$35), and Adnan Kashif earned 2,500 rupees (US$29) per month.

Cheema also extorted land worth 35,000 rupees (US$404) from the boy’s older brother, again without deducting the amount from their debt, and ransacked the family’s house in Ali Naggar village,
stealing Katherine Bibi’s dowry worth 200,000 rupees (US$2,308), she and Gill said.

“Being a rich, powerful and influential Muslim landowner, Cheema
did all of this and also had the cruelty to not deduct the amount from the debt,” Gill said. Suffering under Cheema in this way, the family decided to flee to Islamabad, 165 miles (102 miles) away, Katherine Bibi said. About 18 months ago, however, the peaceful life they had begun anew was shattered when Cheema abducted their youngest son, also known as Mithu, and took him to his farmhouse at Dhonikay village near Ali Naggar in Wazirabad.

“After all these cruelties, Ashraf Cheema owes us some amount, rather than us owing him,” an inconsolable Katherine Bibi told Compass by telephone. She has gone to court to recover her son – both her husband and older son do not risk provoking Cheema by attaching their names to the case – and on June 10 District and Sessions Judge Chaudhary Muhammad Ilyas sent a bailiff to Cheema’s farm to secure the return of the 11-year-old.

“But the bailiff returned unsuccessfully without Mithu, as Ashraf Cheema, being an influential and rich landowner, was told beforehand about the raid by an anonymous insider, and he hid the child,” Katherine Bibi said. She said that since the bailiff failed to recover her son, Cheema has hurled threats at her and her husband, saying, “After this raid by the bailiff, you will neither be able to get back your son, nor will you be granted a cancellation for your debt.”

After joint efforts by Gill of APMA and Dawood Masih of the NCJP,
however, Cheema agreed that if Riaz Masih would work in place of his son, he would release the child, Gill said. When Gill, Dawood Masih and Riaz Masih went to Cheema’s farmhouse, however, the landowner went back on his word and refused to hand over the boy.

Contacted by Compass, Cheema said that no such boy works at his farm or fields, and that “someone must have misled you.” Besides the court recognition of the abduction, however, Gill and other credible sources assert that Danish Masih works from dawn to
dusk under a sizzling summer sun without any break or meal. At press time local Christian leaders had petitioned the deputy superintendent police of Wazirabad to recover Danish Masih.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2010 in Christians

 

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If you want 70 Virgins, rape a non Muslim woman


The fantasy of Muslim men of having “70 virgins” in heaven is no more a fantasy, or a wish. It now has horrible and lethal implications when a Muslim man decides to pursue it here in the world. The story of shame begins with the preaching of a speaker in Islamic Convention in Rawalpindi where he said, “If you marry a non-Muslim or rape a non-Muslim girl, you will get 70 virgins in heaven.” Assumingly, his hate speech reached hundreds of participants, but in one particular case we could witness the havoc his speech brought. Five “Muslim men” raped a 14-yesr Christian girl apparently getting overwhelmed by their desire for having 70 virgins. The role of such religious speakers is shameful who actually are preaching the benefits of raping non-Muslim women in conventions and people around them turn a deaf ear till this brutality reaches their doors. Here, the subject of sexuality is still a taboo, but we allow all sorts of guidance towards the path of reaching virgins even at the cost of women here. I would not be surprised if I do not hear that those five men along with that speaker are hanged till death. Rape is a criminal offence which goes beyond religion, cast, and nationality. If we do not ensure justice for such groups who clearly feel isolated and dejected, we will loose them.

Below is the story:

Muslims in Pakistan Kidnap, Rape Christian Girl

Five men threatened to kill her unless her father allowed one to marry her.

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, June 16 (CDN) — Five Muslims here kidnapped and raped a Christian girl after threatening to kill her unless her father allowed one of them to marry her.

Lazarus Masih said one of his three daughters, 14, was kidnapped on May 29 by five men identified only as Guddu, Kamran, Waqas, Adil and Ali.

Police recovered her on June 6 in a raid on the home where she was being held, though the suspects escaped.

“They threatened that if I don’t get her married to Guddu, they would kill her,” Masih said. “One of them said, ‘We attended an Islamic religious convention, and the speaker said if you marry a non-Muslim or rape a non-Muslim girl, you will get 70 virgins in heaven.”

He said that when he and his wife returned from work at around 11 a.m. on May 29, their 14-year-old daughter was not at home; his other daughters had been at school and said they did not know where she had gone.

During the family’s search for her, they heard from Masih’s brother-in-law, Yousaf Masih, that he had seen five Muslim men follow her earlier that morning.

“In the morning around 7:30 a.m., I saw that [name withheld] and another girl were sitting in a rickshaw and five Muslim guys – Guddu, Kamran, Waqas, Adil and Ali – followed the rickshaw,” Yousaf Masih told the girl’s father.

Family members said the suspects took her to a house near Islamabad, where they gave her a drug that rendered her unconscious, and raped her. A medical report confirmed that she was given drugs and raped.

Lazarus Masih, who lives with his daughters and wife in Mohalla Raja Sultan, Rawalpindi, filed a First Information Report at the Waris Khan police station on June 1 against all five men. He said Guddu, Kamran and Waqas sell and use drugs.

He also contacted advocacy organization Ephlal Ministry, which along with representatives of Life for All and Peace Pakistan met with police chief Mazhar Hussain Minhas and demanded immediate action for the recovery of the girl.

“This is a very sad incident, and we will do whatever we can to recover the girl,” Hussain Minhas told them. Devastated family members said the girl remained frightened and was not speaking to anyone.

“It is such a shame that the religious leaders teach inhuman acts,” said the Rev. John Gill of Shamsabad Catholic Church. “This incident has ruined the life of an innocent child.” The family formerly belonged to the Catholic parish but now affiliates with a Protestant church, New Life Ministry in Rawalpindi.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2010 in Christians

 

“Maybe I am Christian and it’s my fate in Pakistan


“You infidel” is the expression the caretakers of religion—Islam– here in Pakistan use against those who believe in the same God with a different set of beliefs. Ironically, Pakistan’s origin has certainly carried more secularism as compared to what it looks like today with extremism and insecurity for all those “whose God seems different from ours”. 15 million Christians of Pakistan who are as Pakistani as anyone of you face different sort of challenges to survive here with a constant fear of being in minority or I would say “groups with no rights”.  Leaving aside the tales of torture, injustice and killings from past, this recent case of extremism has exposed the truth about how tolerant are we as a society. The story of Tariq Khokar who paid the price for being a Christian or a Pakistani is an eyeopener for those who can still rise above these prejudices. What we are waiting for, is the question we need to ask ourselves before it is too late.

Following is the statement from the Pakistan Christian Post carried by Asian Human Rights Commission.

PAKISTAN: She cries again and utters her agony “Maybe I am Christian and it’s my fate in Pakistan”

Karachi, June 21: Her husband was Head Constable in Karachi Police and she was living peacefully enjoying life with her three children. She used to attend Sunday Services in local Church at Manzoor Colony Karachi with her husband Tariq Khokhar offering special prayers for everlasting happiness of her family. She was very happy when her husband Tariq Khokar was appointed Special Investigating Unit of Karachi Police where arrested terrorists are investigated.

After appointment in Special Unit, Tariq Khokar used to tell her wife that he receives many threat and hate calls from unknown people. I told his wife that callers say him “You infidel leave this Unit of Investigation and make transfer to any other police department”

She was praying more for her husband and sometime compelling him to leave Police job and join any other job but her husband always assured her that “All is fine, I am also driver of Superintendent of Police of his unit and nothing will happen to him”

On April 24, 2010, she receives call from Jinnah Hospital Karachi from a policeman that that dead body of Tariq Khokhar is in hospital and she shall come for identification. She falls unconscious on receiving call of death of husband but her brother brings her to conscious and asks her to take care of children while he goes to hospital for confirmation of news. She sits on floor of her two rooms house taking her three children in her lap and prays to Lord that this news may be wrong. She visualizes from her tearful eyes when she saw last glimpse of her husband Tariq Khokhar yesterday on April 23, 2010, when he kissed their youngest child before leaving for duty.

Her brother reaches hospital and finds dead body of her brother in law in hospital where other policemen tell him that dead body of Tariq Khokhar was found in a bag in Malir River (Malir NadI). There were multiple bullet wounds on body of Tariq Khokhar as he was kidnapped, tortured and then executed. The killers then put dead body in plastic bag and threw it in river.

The First Information Report FIR was lodged in Ibrahim Hyderi Police Station in district east of Karachi against unknown killers and Tariq Khokhar was buried in Nusrat Bhutto Colony graveyard.

There were condolences messages by administration of Karachi Police to her and many assurances that killers will be arrested and brought before court.

Months have been passed but there is no news of arrest of killers of her husband Tariq Khokhar and she looks very strangely on newspapers which published photos and story of death of her husband.

She is Christian housewife and instead of justice receives calls from unknown people “You wife of infidel, convert to Islam if you want life of yours and your children, unless you all shall be killed”.

She cries aloud and goes in hiding in city of Karachi as it is not a metropolitan city of Pakistan but a Jungle where no rule of law prevails.

She cries again and utter her agony “May be I am Christian and it’s my fate in Pakistan”.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2010 in Christians

 

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Why we have Children of a Lesser God


I dedicate this blog to all those voices unheard anywhere in the world. To begin my journey of hearing the pathos, I choose to let my eyes see what most people loath to see; to feel what they are ashamed of admitting even in the darkest of the nights; and to fight against what stands so apt and right for them. Hundreds and thousands of Pakistanis have been sacrificed in the interest of keeping the popular religion alive with a clear imagination of who could own this country– not all for sure.

The tales of persecution of minorities in Pakistan could not grab the fancy of fairy tales, but leave a horror to recall. Let alone Christians, Hindus, but people from other sects are witnessing discrimination, hatred, and all sorts of violations that have left them with a strong sense of alienation.

Article 27 of” International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” says:

“In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.”

Pakistan has recently signed the instrument of ratification and awaiting the approval from the cabinet.

Not only this, Pakistan is a signatory of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which binds all states to respect basic human rights of citizens.

Article 2 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Despite of all these international declarations, Pakistan could not commit anything to its citizens and all the governments hide behind the shield of religion and succumb to the pressure the religious political parties exert.

No one gives anyone this right to judge any citizen on the basis of creed and beliefs. Who are we to decide what people from other beliefs deserve as the citizens. Secular was the foundation of this country, which could not be maintained throughout these years.

I believe, to some extend, we all fall in the same category—minority—either religious in front of a majority group, or social stung by classes. It may appear a small effort to hear those feeble and unheard voices but it is a reply to the unjust and insensitive attitude of this society towards the groups with dissenting voices and beliefs.

Lets all make a conscientious effort towards having a tolerant society above all religious, cultural and social prejudices.

I believe, to some extend, we all fall in the same category—minority—either religious in front of a majority group, or social stung by classes. It may appear a small effort to hear those feeble and unheard voices but it is a reply to the unjust and insensitive attitude of this society towards the groups with dissenting voices and beliefs.
 
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Posted by on June 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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