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Monthly Archives: July 2010

Suspected Islamists shoot five Christians to death in Pakistan


Five more Christians faced the wrath of Islamic extremists who killed them in Sukkur to ensure the monopoly of Muslims in the area. A group of young armed gunmen opened fire at them as soon as they came out of Full Gospel Church after discussing the security situation. The killing was not abrupt, in fact the Sip-e-Sahaba, an Islamic extremist group–once banned, sent a threatening letter to the Church demanding Christians to leave the area.

Since 2008, Sip-e-Sahaba and Sunni Tehrik in collaboration with local madrassa students have been threatening the Church, which was executed on July 15th, 2010. The police of the area showed extreme apathy and refused to file any FIR in the wake of threats to Christians. Who is behind the killing is evident but there are some hidden actors who had an equal share in the tragic episode. The police job knows no religion or creed, and every citizen stands equal.

But here in all the cases against minorities, police plays a role of silent spectator and an unseen cooperation between extremists and police lead such mishaps. These religious extremists have crossed all the limits to be in any civilized society and I would call it a “mini underworld” or religious gangsters and blackmailers. This is equal to challenging the writ of the government where law enforcing agencies show helplessness against such extremists. Such organizations like Sip-e-Sahaba and Sunni Tehrik are not the defenders of Islam rather they have hurt the true spirit of Islam and all religions.

Those who call themselves Muslims and kill people to protect their monopoly and beliefs have no right to belong to any religion. The enemies of humanity should be banned for good. Due to the fear of Muslims, the media could not do its job and did not report the killing. What are we waiting for; to hear the sound of so called Muslims banging our doors to kill us under the pretext of religion? They have crushed the culture of tolerance to zero and now dreaming to live in a kingdom where they allow only those who agree to their version of Islam. Lets raise our voices against insensitivity and intolerance before it is too late………

Below is the story.
Christian Today

A dozen masked men shot five Christians to death as they came out of their church building in Sukkur, Pakistan, on July 15, two months after a banned Islamic extremist group sent church leaders a threatening letter, reports Compassion News Direct. According to CDN, Pastor Aaron John and church members Rohail Bhatti, Salman John, Abid Gill and Shamin Mall of the Full Gospel Church were leaving the church building after meeting to discuss security in light of threats they had received, said the pastor’s son, Shahid John. “As we came out of the church, a group of a dozen armed gunmen came and opened fire at us,” said Shahid John, who survived a bullet in his arm. Besides Shahid John, five others were wounded in the attack.

Kiran Rohail, widow of Rohail BhattiI, said church leaders had received a letter from Islamic extremist group Sip-e-Sahaba (formerly Sipah-e-Sahaba until it was banned) warning the Christians to leave the area.

According to CDN, the Sip-e-Sahaba and Sunni Tehrik extremist groups are both linked with an area madrassa (Islamic school). Their students had reportedly been threatening the church since 2008, Christian sources said.

Sources told CDN that the masked gunmen involved in the July 15 shooting had young physiques like those of students and that the manner of their attack gave the impression of trained extremists.

Sources believe that the madrassa students that have threatened the church since 2008 belong to the Sunni Tehrik extremist group.

Although pastor John and Bhatti had reported the threats, relatives say officers at the local station did not take them seriously and refused to register a First Information Report (FIR).

According to CDN, the shooting was confirmed by an independent government source who added that the media had not reported it because of pressure from local Muslims

 
 

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Failing Pakistan’s Minorities


By Taufiq Rahim, July 30, 2010

“I would like to believe that peace is possible because without it, there is total darkness.”

These were the grim words that my friend left me with as I returned to Dubai from Lahore on July 11 after a short trip to Pakistan. Family members of his perished in the recent attacks on Ahmadi mosques in the city and he was tasked with identifying their bodies at the morgue. It often seems when reading a Pakistani newspaper that you are in three or four simultaneous war zones. The day I arrived on my most recent trip to the country, Pakistan was hit with its most deadly attack of the year, in its tribal areas, resulting in 102 fatalities.

Amidst the ongoing violence there appears to be a more vigorous targeting of religious groups and sites, particularly in urban areas, culminating in the bombing of a prominent Sufi shrine, the Data Darbar in Lahore on July 1, killing more than 40 worshippers. The number of deaths from sectarian attacks has already reached 302 for 2010, compared to 190 for the whole of last year. It harkens back to 2007, when 441 Pakistanis died in sectarian violence. The difference then was that the targeting was mainly outside of Pakistan’s main cities (i.e. the sectarian clashes in Parachinar in FATA). This trend represents an ongoing effort by a number of militant groups to delegitimize the government and further undermine its authority; it also raises the fear of ‘sectarianizing’ an already volatile climate in Pakistan, which could lead to much greater levels of violence.

On May 28, gunmen raided two Ahmadi mosques, one in the Garhi Shahu area and another in the Model Town area of Lahore. 93 people were killed as they attended Friday prayers.  I visited the Model Town mosque on July 10, where witnesses described the horror of that day and expressed a complete lack of confidence in the authorities ability to protect them from another attack. The attack itself started with gunfire and then a grenade was thrown at the imam’s pulpit inside the mosque. Two of the gunmen were apprehended by the worshippers, and prevented from exploding their suicide belts. According to an official of the community that I met with there, the attackers were no more than 16 or 17 years of age. This place of worship now resembles a war zone. While the bullet holes and other damage have since been repaired, new protective features are prominent: barbed wire, bars on all the windows, massive steel doors, barricades, snipers on the roof, and guns everywhere.

The events at the Ahmadi mosques were not a huge surprise due to the community’s historical ostracization. Ahmadis themselves are a small minority in Pakistan who are officially deemed non-Muslims – due to beliefs that conflict with mainstream Islam – by the country’s constitution since 1974. They are prevented from not only preaching their faith, but also from ‘posing’ as Muslims; this includes using the ubiquitous Islamic greeting ‘salaam alaikum’ and quoting from the Quran, punishable by jail time. The climate, suffice it to say, in Pakistan is extremely hostile to Ahamdis. Even the Pakistani media when reporting the recent attacks, refused to call their places of worships ‘mosques‘.

For residents of Lahore, the more recent attack on the Data Darbar shrine was a particular shock, as it is at the heart of the city’s Islam, the burial site of a respected Persian Sufi saint known as Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh, who lived in the 11th century. Both Hindus and Muslims of the subcontinent have a high regard for venerated spiritual figures, and their burial grounds are often visited by hundreds of thousands of people annually. In Mumbai, one of the most popular tourist destinations is the Haji Ali Dargah, dedicated to a returning pilgrim from Mecca nearly 600 years ago. These sites become places of gathering and resting, and some visitors also come with individual prayers seeking the intercession — or tawassul — of the deceased saints for everything from wealth to help with having children.

In orthodox interpretations of Islam, the veneration of Sufi mystics after their deaths represents a form of shirk or heresy, as it placing a partner beside God. In the utmost of puritanical interpretations particularly in salafi thinking — which the Taliban essentially adhere to — this type of heresy is itself a form of apostasy and thus a visitor of the shrine becomes a legitimate target of jihad. In this frame of thinking, regardless of the fact that some of these locations are at the heart of culture and community, they can be attacked legitimately by militants. Many years ago, Saudi Arabia was populated with Sufi shrines, but most were destroyed or isolated, under pressure from clerics, influenced by radical interpretations of Islam.

In Pakistani cities today, the proliferation of madrassas has made the religious schools the educational destinations of many youth. In Karachi, a city with around 20 million people, the Pakistani government often does not provide adequate educational facilities for students. Religious groups visit families living in so-called katchi abadis or impoverished informal communities within Karachi, and offer their children not only paid education but also food and sometimes lodging. Some of these schools — but certainly not all — offer environments that foster extremism, limit critical thinking, and offer no curriculum aside from religious teaching. In essence, they create a vulnerable cadre of youth who could be influenced to participate in sectarian violence, particularly targeting religious minorities and others viewed as lapsed Muslims. While economists have asserted that madrassas are not the dominant institution in Pakistani education nationwide, it does not negate the fact that there are over 1,800 madrassas operating in Karachi, and an undetermined number are influenced by extremist groups such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba. In fact, studies specifically indicate that there is a particular link between sectarian violence and madrassas, which is also cited in the recent Brookings report on madrassas.

The potential cross-section of Pakistan’s citizens who come into the crosshairs is vast. Among religious minorities, aside from the Ahmadis, there are Christians, Ismailis, Shiites (Twelver), Parsis, and small Sufi groups. The rising violence against the Shiite community (17-26 million population of Pakistan’s some 180 million) has been part of the rising trend in sectarian attacks. While in the 1980s this was more commonplace, large-scale attacks, particularly in the cities, had remained largely absent until the last two years. In December 2008, at least 27 people were killed at a Shiite mosque in Peshawar. A funeral procession for a murdered Shiite cleric was attacked in February 2009, resulting in more than 25 dead. The Taliban then claimed an attack on Shiites during the holy celebration of Ashura in Karachi, in December of 2009, in which 43 people lost their lives. Then again in February of this year, blasts targeting a bus of Shiite worshippers and a subsequent hospital where they were being treated resulted in 18 dead. In between and since there have been other sectarian attacks of a smaller scale.

The potential ramifications of this intensifying violence targeting multiple groups, is potentially catastrophic, beyond even the immediate violence. The Pakistani state is losing its authority very rapidly. The government is consistently viewed as absent and completely incompetent, apparent in many conversations with a wide range of Pakistanis that I’ve been having; more damaging is that the Pakistani Army is not trusted to stop the attacks, and confidence in that institution is very low. Sectarian strife is also sliding down a slippery slope. It could very quickly lead to a larger armed confrontation between the Barelvi movement that represents perhaps half the population and are opposed to the Taliban, and the Deobandi movement, that is much more supportive of a religious philosophy that demonizes Sufis and is sympathetic to the Taliban. The Barelvi were especially taken aback by the damage at the Data Darbar.

The rising sectarian strife and religious violence is prodding Pakistan to have a more reflective conversation on its identity as a nation. Opposition leader Nawaz Shariff came out surprisingly after the attacks on Ahmadis, to call them group his “brothers and sisters”; he was, however, roundly criticized by clerics shortly thereafter. Yet, Pakistan’s national flag itself has a white strip to represent its minorities and their equal status in the country.

For a long time, the government due to its confrontation with India, coddled extremist religious groups such as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and its offshoots. Now the national security threat comes from within, and national leaders — whether it’s the army, politicians, or civil society — need to start having a more involved conversation to acknowledge and protect Pakistani’s pluralistic identity and ultimately stop the slide to more sectarian violence. This conversation must confront directly sectarian and extremist philosophies that condition citizenship or legitimacy of Pakistanis based on a religious standard. More importantly, it should lead to real action that curtails religious incitement by clerics, politicians and other prominent figures. Without an honest and open discussion on these issues, Pakistan will continue to suffer the consequences from rising sectarian violence.

Taufiq Rahim is a Visiting Scholar at the Dubai School of Government, and blogs at TheGeopolitico.com.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2010 in Ahmadis

 

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WCC calls for repeal of Pakistan Blasphemy Law after killings


23.07.10
“Great dismay” at the shooting and killing of two young Christians in Faisalabad on 19 July was expressed by the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in letters to Pakistan’s president and its prime minister.

Pastor Rashid Emmanuel and his brother Sajid Emmanuel were shot dead on court premises by unidentified gunmen when they were taken there by police to face a charge of blasphemy against Islam.

In his letters, Tveit appealed to the Pakistani authorities “to ensure immediate and necessary actions to bring to justice those who are responsible” for the murders.

He also reiterated the concern that the “misuse of the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan has led to physical violence, damage, destruction of properties and loss of life”, and called on the Pakistani leaders “to initiate measures towards the repeal of the Blasphemy Laws and to secure the rights and dignity of all individuals in Pakistan society”.

In a public statement on “The misuse of the Blasphemy Law and the security of religious minorities in Pakistan”, the WCC Central Committee considered that the law had become “a major source of victimization and persecution” of religious minorities who are living “in a state of fear and terror”, in September 2009.

“We do not know what to do. We are helpless,” Victor Azariah, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Pakistan, which groups four Protestant churches, told Ecumenical News International (ENI) on 21 July from his office in Lahore.

Church groups say Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, which provides for a mandatory death sentence or life imprisonment even for unintentional blasphemy offences, is often misused against Christians and others to settle property and personal disputes.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2010 in Blasphemy, Christians

 

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Allama Ahmed Mian Hammadi should be arrested for using hate speech against Minister for Minorities


I am convinced that the religious clerics have a big share in the rise on intolerance towards minorities. A country like Pakistan where literacy rate is low and people are naïve when it comes on opinion making, it becomes easy to be successful in manipulating people’s minds. The manipulation of their opinions by those who are extremists in their views and beliefs always meet disaster. These clerics have played an ugly role most of the times and their preaching of hate speech always led to more sufferings and disaster for minorities. Recently, two Christian brothers were killed by unidentified people outside the court on blasphemy charges. The whole country was saddened and people from different walks of life condemned the murder. The President of Pakistan has also condemned the murder and called for an investigation. But when the Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, condemned the killing and called both the brothers as victims, he was accused of committing blasphemy by a religious cleric. His statement published in Daily Jasarat, a Pakistani Urdu daily newspaper, falls in the category of hate speech where he incited Muslims to violence saying if Mr. Bhatti committed blasphemy, he would be beheaded. The provocation to kill another Christian so openly while using the medium of newspaper is very alarming. The demand for his resignation has no logic as he is among those few voices which can legitimately pursue the interests of Christians. It seems like an attempt to crush that rare voice as well. Such statements encourage illiterate people with weak minds to kill people and get away with the heinous crime on the pretext of blasphemy. The government should take a serious notice of this threat and should arrest Allama Hammadi for inciting murder against the Minister. Those newspapers which actively participate in propagating hate speech should be banned if they do not agree to stop doing so. The incidents of Faisalabad, Koriaan, and Gojra are still fresh in minds and the wounds are bleeding. Any other incident of this nature will alienate the Christians further with a loss of trust in law and state.  The government should take some tough measures to stop hate speech and propaganda against minorities otherwise more people will loose lives.

Below is the story:

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Muslim groups insist that the murder of two Christian brothers,  Emmanuel and Sajid Rashid, gunned down in Faisalabad last Monday after they were accused of blasphemy, was justified. They also want Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, to resign because he condemned the murder. Meanwhile, police are investigating the crime and might have identified one of the perpetrators.

In a statement that appeared in the Urdu daily Jasarat, Islamic cleric Allama Ahmed Mian Hammadi said, “It is not a cruelty to kill blasphemers; rather blasphemy itself is such an enormous brutality that the one who commits it does not have the right to live in this world. There is no pardon for the blasphemer.”

The two Christian brothers were arrested after being charged with blasphemy, but their trial appeared to be moving towards acquittal for lack of evidence. Nevertheless, handcuffed and without a chance to defend themselves or escape, they were shot dead by masked gunmen just outside of the courthouse.

Bhatti condemned the murder, saying the charges were false, fabricated by someone who had a grudge against the brothers. He said that no one has the right to take the law in their own hands, and that the blasphemy law should be changed to prevent abuses.

For Hammadi, Bhatti ought to resign for saying that the murder was due to an abuse of the blasphemy. In fact, in the cleric’s opinion, the incident was due to the non-implementation of the blasphemy law. “The two brothers were killed after Muslims became angry.”

On top of that, Hammadi said that if Bhatti committed blasphemy [for condemning the murder and criticising the abuse of the blasphemy law] he should be beheaded” as well. The Christians who protested in the streets and allegedly threw stones at Muslim houses after the double murder should also be arrested.

On Thursday, the chief justice of Lahore High Court in Punjab, Khwaja Mohammad Sharif, ordered an investigation into the brothers’ murder, in response to a request by the Government of Punjab.

Media have criticised Faisalabad Regional Police Officer Aftab Ahmad Cheema for the inadequate protection provided to the accused, despite threats. Police sources indicate that a man called Rana Maqsood, a Muslim, was arrested in connection with the case.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2010 in Christians, Hate Speech

 

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Accept me as Pakistani, not as Sunni, Shia, Ahmadi, Christian or Hindu…..


The targeting of minorities has to stop. That is the thought expressed by two discussants in the video and I share their views. Christians and Ahmadis are as Pakistanis as anyone else with an identification card and a passport. But who really owns this country can trigger a genuine debate. I met many Ahmadis and Christians who even after faced immense hardships are connected to this country more than any other Pakistani. They belong to this country but now they are loosing this sense of belonging after constant targeting and persecutions. The treatment they receive is of second rate citizens and the excuse ever provided is that their religious beliefs are different from the majority. Why the need has occurred to confuse citizens’ national identity with their religious beliefs? The identity of being a Pakistani is enough to enjoy all rights and respect. Any sort of discrimination and humiliation with any citizen on basis of his/her religion should be discouraged and it has to start from within. The day we accept our identity as a Pakistani rather Sunni Shia, Ahmadi, Hindu, or Christian, it will end all discrimination, misery and humiliation.

Forgotten Minorities of Pakistan

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2010 in Ahmadis, Blasphemy, Christians

 

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Court releases mentally ill woman after 14 years


The easiest way to take revenge in this country is to get the person arrested under blasphemy laws which carry death penalty. But much before the execution, an angry mob always decides to do justice and kill the person. The killing of two brothers is the latest proof of the impatience and intolerance of people, which is on rise. The demand to repeal these laws is not new but due to lack of will on the government’s part, minorities are still being victimized. The story of a woman, Zaibun Nisa, who spent 14 years of her life in prison without trial shows apathy of society and incompetence of justice system. Blasphemy is certainly an accusation that ruins a life and a crime that is never proven because of lack of evidence. Same happened with this woman who was kept in jail even after her medical reports confirmed that she was mentally ill. Who is responsible for the agony and pain she suffered in the prison even being innocent?

Below is the story:
Reuters: 22-07-2010

A Pakistani court ordered the release of a mentally ill woman accused of blasphemy who has been held without trial for 14 years, a court official and her lawyer said on Thursday. Police arrested Zaibun Nisa, now 55, in 1996 outside Islamabad after a Muslim cleric registered a complaint about the desecration of a copy of the Koran.

She has been held in the prison section of a mental hospital in the eastern city of Lahore for 14 years without trial because no one pursued her case. “At her arrest, her medical examination was carried out and doctors had certified that she was mentally ill but still she was languishing in jail,” her lawyer, Aftab Ahmed Bajwa, who recently took up her case with the Lahore High Court, told Reuters.

Chaudhry Mohammad Sharif, the chief justice of the high court, ordered Nisa’s immediate release, a court official said. Bajwa said cleric informed the court that he had registered his complaint with police against “unknown people” and had never accused Nisa of blasphemy in his complaint by name.

“What kind of a country is this where a person is being held without trial for 14 years. It can’t be tolerated,” Bajwa quoted the judge as saying. Nisa will be put in a shelter for homeless people until her family is found, Bajwa said.

Human right activists have long called for the repeal of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, which they say discriminates against non-Muslim religious minorities and is also used to settle personal scores. Blasphemy carries the death penalty under Pakistani law, although the sentence has never been carried out because convictions are overturned by superior courts for lack of evidence. There have been incidents, however, where the accused have been killed by a mob.

Two Christian brothers accused of writing a blasphemous letter against the Prophet Mohammad were gunned down outside a court in the eastern city of Faisalabad on Monday. Successive governments in Pakistan have tried to reform the law, introduced by former military ruler General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s as part of his Islamisation campaign, but backed down after protests from hardline Islamic groups.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2010 in Blasphemy

 

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Say YES to tolerance: Solidarity rally for religious freedom…….


Everyone who believes in an independent and free Pakistan should be the part of such events. This is the only way to raise your voice and to stop injustice from reaching your home too. Say yes to tolerance…….

Rally on August 11:

The ‘All Pakistan Minorities Alliance’ is organising a rally for August 11 to draw attention to the violence and discrimination minorities suffer. About 100,000 Christians and people from other confessions are expected.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) is going to hold a ‘National Solidarity Rally’ on August 11 at the Mīnār-ĕ Pākistān in Lahore. A huge gathering of people from minority communities, including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsees, should come. Organisers expect about 100,000 people from all over Pakistan, brought together by the same desire to see discriminatory laws abolished, including the blasphemy law, as well as the protection of equal rights and religious freedom.

In announcing the event APMA chairman, Shahbaz Bhatti, quoted from Pakistan’s founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who in his address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, said: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State . . . . We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and citizens of one state””

Despite Ali Jinnah’s dream for a modern secular Pakistan (in which Muslim clergy played no role), the founder’s successors paid no heed to his wishes. They used religion to centralize power and divide society, adopting in the end inhuman legislation and laws that persecute and victimise minorities.

“Today,” Mr Bhatti said, “Christians and religious minorities in Pakistan are facing serious challenges on different fronts. Their basic rights are denied and religious freedom is curtailed. They are persecuted, victimised, terrorised and hated due to their faith. The blasphemy and other discriminatory laws violate all standards of human rights and democratic norms; they are naked swords hanging over our heads. There is a greater need for unity among Christians and religious minorities to overcome these challenges, including extremism, terrorism and religious intolerance.”

With this purpose in mind APMA has been organising for some time seminars, conferences and public demonstrations in various cities to focus public attention on the issue of persecution and atrocities committed against Christians and members of other religious minorities.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2010 in Events, Religious intolerance

 

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