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Category Archives: Blasphemy

Boycott Aamir Liaquat


Dear all, and especially Aamir Liaquat Husain’s fans,

Stop being deceived by Aamir Liaquat

The following video of your “very own” Liaquat bhai is not just an eye opener, rather a slap in the face. When Islam came in this world amidst of all gods and goddesses, then the followers broke them in search of one Allah. It was their unwritten promise with themselves that no idol will ever be worshipped. But we again chose the path leading to making more gods. Is it the time when we should remove their masks and break them? Aamir Liaquat Husain is one of them who is now finally exposed to his followers.

Now everyone should loathe those eyes which were glued to watching Liaquat Husain. The honey-tongued Liaquat Husain called you “behen” when his mind was smitten with rape scenes. Bollywood and all villains charm him and without remembering their names, it seems Liaquat Husain cannot focus on his programmes.  Vulgar slangs and abuses appeared as a “warm out session” for Liaquat Husain to start a programme based on Quran, Sunna and personal religious issues of people. In this clip, you will find him laughing at a phone call in which a woman asks the status of suicide if a girl commits it to avoid rape.  He blasted into laughers and ridiculed the maulvi who was answering the question.

I do not find any difference between the language of Liaquat or a pimp and that, too, in an Islamic country. Your Creator—God—is there and will take your hand to drag you out of misery. Through people like Liaquat, every road takes you to rubbish, immorality, and dirt, but not to Allah…Break those idols which Muslims have dared breaking 1400 years ago.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Blasphemy, Discrimination, Hate Speech, Rape

 

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Love thy neighbours?


It has been ages since I last wrote a blog. My apologies for this pause, longer than what I have expected. It was fair to assume that either I have lost interest or my cause has met some success. But I still have no reason to choose either of the options. It was time for me to sit back and ensure that I am still committed despite having no signs of improvement in the status of those people I strongly feel for. But as majority decided to side with violators; likewise, the victims and their supporters decided to continue fighting for their rights.

There is a long list of things I would like to share with my readers, but a report published in a newspaper has just caught my attention. Siddique Sindhu, a Christian Pastor, who lives in Green Town of Lahore, has been receiving threats from a neighbor who, he suspects, of having involved in two robberies. Sindhu lost 0.8 million rupees goods, including jewelry and dowry for his two daughters in those robberies. Muhammad Aslam Shah, the accused, has rented his house out to around 30 boys whom he used to harass the family of Sindhu. The question here is that why he has done it and what he could achieve through harassment and robbery except creating an environment for Sindhu not conducive to live peacefully.

His wish to grab the land where Sindhu’s house is built right now was behind it in a hope to build an imam bargah later. This all has started in the year of 2009 and since then Sindhu and his family has suffered an immeasurable damage both in terms of money and peace of mind.  The accused, though, has denied all charges saying that his 28 tenants were arrested on Sindhu’s complaints, but no evidence was found against them. He is sure of his tenants’ innocence as they swore on the Holy Quran. Sindhu said that one Safdar, had introduced himself as reader to a police superintendent, told him on 15 July to withdraw the complaints or else he would implicate Sindhu’s sons in criminal cases and also get Sindhu in the legal trap of blasphemy.

Waqar Ahmed, the Lahore chapter president of National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony is personally looking into the matter and interviewing the neighbours to establish the facts. The response from the neighbours is encouraging and loaded with sympathies for Sindhu and they are hopeful that it will not be a case of Muslims vs. Christians.

Here I have put all the facts and the point being made here is not to determine the righteousness of anyone based on his/her religion. There is a possibility that Sindhu has overreacted to any event, but here it is a string of threatening events. My personal observations suggests that keeping in mind the current status quo of Christians, no one would dare to give a reason to the majority to single him out. Sindhu is alone in his fight for justice knowing that his position in the society being a Christian will always be challenged. He still has taken the tough route despite threats and harassment and this strengthens my belief that all cannot be a lie.

Sindhu is mindful of threats doled out to him but he is still pursuing the case. The blasphemy does strike anyone like a real threat because it has swallowed many lives, and inefficient legal system has given teeth to this law as well. Whatever has happened to hundreds of people behind this legal shield is enough to scare people away and stop them from any sort of resistance against injustice. The issues have always involved property and land grabbing from people of other religions and blasphemy gives them an excuse to hide their intentions. I want to believe his neighbours who do not take it as Muslims targeting a Christian, but simultaneously I cannot outrageously ignore the logic in Sindhu’s argument.

 

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Blasphemy, Christians

 

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OBL: The Church is scared…


Osama Bin Laden– a nightmare for the US, but a pal for many including a lot of Pakistanis–is dead. The man has left many conspiracy theories behind him and a whole debate on future bilateral relationship of the US and Pakistan. Many mourned his death in a manner one could do for his loved ones whereas many kept assuming the possibilities with much skepticism. This is how Pakistanis must have felt generally, but a country where its minorities are victimized for every sin, their fear of a possible backlash is genuine.

What is true has no significance here that those Pakistanis who believe in other religions and sects have no direct link to this killing which determines their zero share in the punishment too. But in the land of ifs and buts, the Christians have a feeling that Taliban tend to attack their churches as acts of vengeance. Taliban and many ordinary citizens would look at the ‘OBL operation’ as an invasion in a Muslim country which offers an excuse to announce Jihad against Christians.

The concern for the safety of Christians in Pakistanis high and explained very well by the Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore, Lawrence Saldanha. “Christians could face a backlash and we are a soft target as they cannot attack America. We demand security. The government should control any retaliation,” he said.

The bigger picture tells that the government and for that matter any institute lack a will to protect the worship places of other religions, let alone the Christians. The backlash nightmare is turning into reality and people regardless of their religion are being killed. The churches, mosques, mandirs, and gurdwaras including their followers are still vulnerable and if the government decides to provide these places with security.  I doubt if it could be of any help.

But the situation in Gujranwala indicates that something is cooking and that isolates Christians only. The Quran burning so far has proven the most powerful and effective excuse when the mob decides to take revenge or settle the scores. Same happened in this case too. The blasphemy laws strike again when two men– Mushtaq Gill and his son Farrukh– were taken into police custody for questioning and found guilty. Muslims have reacted angrily, held protests and vandalized Christian homes and a school. Some 3,000 Christians have fled the area fearing for their lives and the police failed to control the situation.

I tried to imagine other possible outlets through which the Muslims could react, but I could only come up with the accusations of blasphemy. It is a successful recipe to flare up people emotions and one does not need to present evidences to prove the offense. The police quietly succumb to the pressure and let go of the investigation part, the little blasphemy laws allow. Osama has gone and I believe the world will not fall apart without him. The US and Pakistan will eventually normalize the relationship as world believes in coexistence. Neither OBL nor the US will ever come to your rescue but those who share the same country, culture, and traditions will be on your side. Do not isolate your own people even if they believe in other Holy Books. They are and will always be Pakistanis.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2011 in Blasphemy, Christians

 

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Thank you Mr. Agha Akbar Mirza for ruining another life


To much of our surprise, the list of categories which decide the blasphemers in Pakistanis getting longer. The new entry is ‘students’ who are expected to give exams based on their understanding, knowledge and vision. The freedom to express their views should clearly be the core idea behind the examination, which does not exist anymore here. Is it a joke what I have read? No it is clearly not. A 17-year-old, not an adult, has been accused of blasphemy immediately after Controller of Examinations Agha Akbar Mirza of Board of Intermediate Education Karachi (BIEK) found his answer sheet with an “expression of blasphemy”. His arrest followed by an FIR must have left the little boy bewildered and with his trust shaken which he ever had in teachers and education system. The country has lost the sacredness of education and respect for other’s views and for those matter students’ views. The board has a right to judge any student on the basis of his answers and allowed to follow the criterion of marks and grades. But the BIEK’s Controller has misunderstood and misused his powers when he sent the answer sheets to the police. It is a shame. The concept of a teacher, ustad, is universal who show the right path to every soul regardless of his/her religion, nationality, and biases. But this incident has shown how a youth has lost his future and path for good because one man in the system misused his authority and could not rise above his prejudices and notion of right and wrong. I take this opportunity to convey this to Mr. Agha Akbar Mirza that he has not done any service to Islam or the Prophet (PBUH) rather he has confirmed unfortunately what the accused cousins told him about “liberty and a happy life”.

Below is the story:
PakistanToday, April 22:

KARACHI– The police on Saturday arrested a teenage boy for allegedly writing blasphemous material on examination answer sheets. Seventeen-year-old ‘S’, a resident of Malir, was detained following a complaint by Board of Intermediate Education Karachi (BIEK) Controller of Examinations Agha Akbar Mirza, police said.
The BIEK management has also sent photocopies of the answer sheets as proof of the blasphemy charges against the teenager to the police. The police added that FIR No 56/11 has been lodged against S under Sections 295-C and 109 of the Pakistan Panel Code on Mirza’s complaint.

Shahrah-e-Noor Jehan Station Investigation Officer Qudrat Sher Ali told Pakistan Today that during investigation, the boy told the police that his two Norwegian cousins, who visited the family in January 2009, had influenced him with anti-Islamic views. The statement said: “My two cousins visitedKarachifor 11 days. One day, when I returned home after offering Jumma prayer they laughed at me, saying that Islam has detained Muslims.”
“Both my cousins teased me and started convincing me that they were enjoying a happy life in Oslo while I am visiting mosques. They told me that their country was free and no one could stop them from expressing themselves. Gradually, I started thinking about the liberty they enjoyed,” the statement quoted S as saying.
The SIO said the boy was presented before Judicial Magistrate-VI Maqbool Memon, who sent the boy on a judicial remand for 14 days. Ali said the police had asked the BIEK management to provide the original answer sheets of Islamiyat and physics while the statement of board officials would also be recorded for further investigation.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2011 in Blasphemy

 

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Blasphemy convict’s death in jail sparks suspicion


Those accused of blasphemy have no present and future in this country and that has been determined so far. The weak social and political existence and representation of minorities in Pakistan and poor economic conditions have made them more vulnerable to victimisation. Their legal status , one could determine through the most controversial  blasphemy laws targetting them since decades. The wave of extremism has furhere squeezed their breathing space and after the assassinations of Punjab Gvernor Salman Taseer and Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, the world has come to know that any vooice that speaks truth and stands with justice is ought to be crushed. Prior to these assassinations, our minorities were living in a constant fear with a little hope, but the recent death of Qamar David, a Christian serving a life sentence in two blasphemy cases, told us that their life in prison is not safe even.

His family suspected it to be a murder and they have infinite reasons to believe that. Why would we believe the jail authorities or the medical report when the whole society has denied them their rights including their right to life. In blasphemy cases, even our courts here are reluctant to decide the cases due to threats and social pressure. The accused spend their whole lfe in prison waiting for justice and anyone other than the authorities take the law in their hands in the name of religion. The assassins of Taseer and Bhatti are our heroes and similarly those who kill people like David are the protectors of Islam who are above law.

Calling for inquiry is the only thing the rights group can do, but we all know that this country has not learnt to respect human life and protect its own citizens. The extremism which is ruining the country and people is what we have asked for.  What goes around comes around. Those who do not learn pay the price.

Below is the story:
Express Tribune

KARACHI: Fifty-five-year-old Qamar David, a Christian serving a life sentence in two blasphemy cases, died on Tuesday of what jailers say was a heart attack but his family suspects it was murder.

David was being kept at Central Jail, Karachi. “My husband had no disease,” his wife Tabassum told The Express Tribune. “He informed me about receiving threats from someone in jail after the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti.” Jail Deputy Superintendent Raja Mumtaz refuted these claims. “No one killed him,” he said. “He died of a heart attack.” He was taken to Civil Hospital, Karachi where he died while being treated.

A postmortem will be held today in the presence of his family, a magistrate and the police surgeon. Two cases of blasphemy were registered against him in the Saddar and Azizabad police stations in 2006 and one attempted murder case was registered by the Sir Syed police station. The victim’s family also filed a petition in the Sindh High Court where they challenged the life imprisonment. The attempted murder case was being heard.

David, who hailed from a town near Lahore, used to live in Lines Area and used to run a small business.

Background

On February 25, 2010, Additional District and Sessions Judge Jangu Khan found Qamar David guilty of blasphemy. The judge sentenced David to life imprisonment under Sections 295A and 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code, based on claims made by business rivals. He was accused of sending text messages which contained derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Christian human rights groups have demanded that a committee investigate the causes of the death.

The Catholic Bishop of  Islamabad/Rawalpindi Rufin Anthony conveyed his condolences to David’s family and said, “I am in grief, the whole Christian community has been grieving for the past few days. We haven’t recovered from the loss and this news has increased my concerns about the future of Christians in Pakistan. David was falsely accused of blasphemy. How much more blood do we still have to see to realise that the blasphemy laws need to be abolished? How much blood does the government wants to have on its hands? Another sad day for the minorities in Pakistan.”

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2011 in Blasphemy, Christians

 

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Bhatti killing pushes Pakistan closer to the brink


Minority Rights Group International: Jared Ferrie

The assassination of Pakistan’s Minister of Minorities, Shabaz Bhatti, who was brutally killed Wednesday on the streets of Islamabad, was described as an attack on “the values of tolerance and respect for people of all faiths and backgrounds” by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As the only Christian member of the Pakistani government, the Vatican also considered it timely to comment, calling his death an act of “violence against Christians and religious freedom”.

While it is true that for decades Hindus and Christians, along with Shia, Sufi, and Ahmadi Muslims have suffered persecution in Pakistan, it is necessity to delineate these statements. After all, Bhatti’s death not only speaks to the obvious and continued stranglehold that Islamic extremism has on the Pakistani government, but also, the consequences of its continued influence on the country’s educated middle-class, judiciary and military.

In a claim of responsibility, Taliban spokesmen stated that Bhatti’s murder was a message to Pakistanis of all backgrounds who oppose the country’s long-standing blasphemy law. Introduced in the 1970s, the controversial law makes insulting Islam, the Qur’an, or the Prophet Mohammed a crime punishable by death. Critics claim, however, that it is often used to justify the persecution of minorities.

The real problem facing the Pakistani government over the last forty years is that, while radical Islamic groups enjoy periods of safe haven in the northern tribal regions of the country, they have also proven to be something the country’s ruling elite just cannot rid themselves of internally. Bhatti’s murder joins what has become a tradition of extremists killing liberal politicians at will, and follows the January murder of liberal Punjabi governor, Slaman Tasser, who was killed by his one of his own bodyguards.

Though Islamists have done very poorly in Pakistani elections, the country’s moderates do very little to publicly criticize these types of violent crimes. Further, while Pakistan’s military and intelligence community (ISI) claim to be rigorously hunting down terrorists domestically, Afghan Taliban groups continue to enjoy permanent operating residency in the notorious border region of North Waziristan.

With so much US military financing benefitting Pakistan, the epicenter of the global confrontation with radical Islam, the question remains: has terrorism in these countries become a cash crop? And if so, to what extant is the incompetence, indifference and corruption that allows it to continue to flourish there become an exploitable resource for its leaders?

Trevor Westra is a graduate of Canada’s Laurentian University in Religious Studies. He writes frequently on politics, globalization and the intersections of religion and history at his blog The Theo Log.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in Assassinations, Blasphemy, minorities

 

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The Pakistan killings are not about blasphemy


Guardian, Nick Cohen

After Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses, religious “scholars” doubted whether the Ayatollah Khomeini had the right to order his murder. They had no liberal qualms about executing a writer for subjecting religion to imaginative scrutiny. They believed that blasphemers and apostates must die as their religion insisted. But only if they were citizens of an Islamic state. As Rushdie was living in London in 1989, a free man in a free country, the clerics concluded that religious law did not apply to him.

The Rushdie controversy was the Dreyfus affair of the late 20th century. It established today’s dividing lines between the secular and the authoritarian, between those who were willing to defend freedom of thought and inquiry and those who wanted to censor and self-censor to keep fanatics happy. We can gauge how low we have sunk by remembering that at the start of the battle 23 years ago there was a tiny regard for the forms of legality, even among those who were otherwise happy to condemn free thinkers to death. However brutal they were, they respected their version of due process.

The Islamist murders first of Salmaan Taseer and then of Shahbaz Bhatti show that what tiny scruples blood-soaked men possessed vanished long ago. The best way to describe the terror which is reducing Pakistani liberals to silence is to enumerate what the assassins did not allege. They did not say that Taseer and Bhatti must die because they were apostates – or, to put that “crime” in plain language, because they were adults who decided they no longer believed in the Muslim god. Taseer had not renounced Islam. Bhatti could not renounce it as he was the bravest Christian in Pakistan, who campaigned for equal rights for persecuted minorities with the dignity and physical courage of a modern Martin Luther King.

Nor did their assassins claim that their targets had committed the capital crime of blasphemy. Taseer and Bhatti had not said that the Koran, like the Talmud and the New Testament, was the work of men not god. They did not denounce Muhammad’s morality or offer any criticism of his life and teaching. If you wanted to reduce the whirling, brilliant narrative of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses to a single sentence, you could say that it was in part a “blasphemous” account of the early history of Islam. Taseer and Bhatti attempted nothing so brave. They confined themselves to making the modest point that Pakistan’s death penalty for blasphemy was excessive and barbaric, and that was enough to condemn them. Their killers murdered them for the previously unknown crime of advocating law reform: blew them away for the new offence of blaspheming against blasphemy.

One Pakistani journalist I spoke to described his fellow liberals as members of a persecuted minority, who now knew that if they spoke out, they would be shot down. Salmaan Taseer’s daughter, Shehrbano, wrote a heartbreaking piece for the Guardian in which she despaired of a “spineless” Pakistani elite that was too frightened to praise her father or condemn his murderers.

In the networked world, censorship by the authoritarian state or clerical paramilitaries is meant to matter less. Technology enthusiasts can point to Twitter revolutions as proof of how emancipatory democratic ideas seep into apparently closed societies. But the ideas that Pakistanis need from America, Europe or “the west” to help fight armed theocracy are not there for surfers to find.

Fear plays its part in keeping western opinion quiet as well. It is hard to credit, but liberal society responded pretty well to the threat to Rushdie in 1989. Penguin refused to withdraw the Satanic Verses. Booksellers ignored threats and bombs and carried on selling it. But once the global wave of terror had passed, no one wanted to put themselves through what Rushdie and Penguin had been through, and a silence descended. Even the supposedly militant “new atheists,” whom genteel commentators damn for their vulgarity, steer clear of religions that might kill them. Close readers of Richard Dawkins will notice that almost all his examples of clerical folly are drawn from the Catholic and American evangelical churches, whose congregations are unlikely to firebomb his publishers.

The fear is still present. Last month, four men were convicted of slashing the face and fracturing the skull of Gary Smith, a London teacher who had made the mistake of taking the windy official pronouncements about “promoting diversity” seriously and taught Muslim girls about Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism. Political violence comes from the British National Party, English Defence League and various splinter groups from the IRA, as well as Islamists, and that is before you raise your gaze and examine the assorted gun-totting crazies who inhabit the fringe of American politics.

The difference between Islamism and the rest is that liberals are happy to denounce white extremists, while covering up militant Islam with the wet blanket of political correctness. They do not confine themselves to saying that, of course, society must protect people from being murdered for their religion, as Slobodan Milosevic murdered the Bosnian Muslims, and punish employers who refuse jobs to members of creeds they dislike, as Protestant employers in Northern Ireland once refused to hire Catholics. They maintain it is illicit to criticise religious ideas. Thus, along with the admittedly faint fear of violence, western writers who want to provide arguments against religious misogyny, homophobia, racism and censorship must also live with the fear that their contemporaries will accuse them of orientalism or Islamophobia.

The world may pay a price for the monumental blunder of treating religious ideologies – which are beliefs that men and women ought to be free to accept or reject – as if they were ethnicities, which no man or woman can change. Not the smallest reason why the Arab revolution is such an optimistic event is that al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood have been left as gawping bystanders. Their isolation cannot last. Eventually, if Arab states move towards democracy, there will be a confrontation with political Islam. Arab liberals, like Pakistani liberals, will search the net for guidance. They will discover that far from offering strategies that might help, timorous western liberals have convinced themselves that it is “racist” to criticise raging fanatics who no longer even bother to pretend that they are anything other than liberalism’s mortal enemies.

 
 

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Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder: An attempt on the parliament’s right to debate legislative issues


PAKISTAN: Pakistan Peace Council terms the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti an attempt on the parliament’s right to debate legislative issues Karachi, March 04, 2011:

The Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) strongly condemns the brutal murder of the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti in Islamabad on March 03, 2011. The murder on the pretext of the Minister’s opposition to the contentions of Blasphemy Laws is outrageous and an open challenge to the future stability of Pakistan, a statement issued by the Pakistan Peace Coalition read.

The PPC observed that Minister Bhatti was killed merely two months after the assassination of Governor Punjab Salman Taseer, who too was silenced for his open remarks about the blasphemy laws. “The blame for Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder cannot just be attributed to the government alone. There are serious questions regarding the roles of the political parties, the parliament, the media, the judiciary and the security establishment, all having created an environment where fundamentals related to the right to live, minorities protection, freedom of speech, rule of law, parliament’s right to debate and amend laws are being challenged, and mobs and street forces are being manipulated to take law into their own hands.”

The PPC emphasised that the Blasphemy Laws is an issue for the parliament to debate, and not for the religious forces to decide. They neither have an electoral base nor do they have any relevance in the vision of a progressive national order. Likewise, the judiciary has a responsibility to uphold the sanctity of the constitutional provision of the right to live, freedom of speech and other fundamental constitutional guarantees. Time and again, the religious right has issued open decree inciting masses to murder and threaten the safety and wellbeing of individuals over issues that are a prerogative of the public representatives to decide. The religious forces neither have the electoral mandate nor do they represent a wider section of the population. The concerned authorities’ failure to take note of the series of violations of the rule of law by the religious mobs have made a direct contribution to the murder of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, while the life of another parliamentarian Sherry Rehman remains in danger for the same reason.

Declaring the Minorities Affairs Minister’s murder as another attempt to derail the democratic process, the PPC also criticised the role of progressive political parties in the parliament over the issue of the blasphemy laws. Today’s parliament carries the combination of the most progressive and democratic forces the country has ever had, yet their deafening silence over an issue that has been claiming one life after another is disappointing. We have seen that all those who sought to rationalise the debate on the blasphemy issue, including Gov. Salman Taseer, MNA Sherry Rehman and Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were not only isolated by the state, their fellow public representatives too did nothing to support their stand either in the house of representatives or in the public domain. As a result, we lost two leading lights upholding the right of the minorities. Pakistan’s current parliamentarians need to understand that it is not merely about the blasphemy laws, it is about the Parliament’s right to debate issues in the House that is being challenged. If the Parliament will continue to allow legislative issues discussed and decided on the streets, there are little chances of democratic process to survive in the country.

The PPC observed that Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder took place in spite of the Government’s public assertion, repeated ad nauseam, that it has no intention whatsoever to amend the Blasphemy Law! If the Prime Minister himself rules out any amendment to the law that has blatantly threatened citizens’ protection, and yet a Minorities Affairs Minister is murdered, there are clear signals that people who wish to take over the country would suppress all voices that stand in opposition to their regressive views.

The PPC cautioned that situation similar to 1977 is developing in the country. The recent series of events point to the empowerment of the religious forces by the security stablishment of the country. Various religious parties and sectarian groups seem to have set aside their traditional hatred of each other and are trying to cobble together a politico-religious platform from which to participate in the next elections with a violence-prone agenda of religious extremism. This is nothing short of a national disaster with much graver consequences this time.

Asian Human Rights Commission

 
 

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A great show on assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti


Aapas Ki Baat with Najam Sethi: 2nd March 2011

http://najamsethi.com/ns/2011/03/aapas-ki-baat-with-najam-sethi-2nd-march-2011/

 

 

Debate with extremists in a non-confrontational way?


Karachi Literary Festival

In today’s world, Pakistan is known for all the possible bad reasons. The wave of terrorism and extremism, which was nurtured and well protected by Gen Zia, is  now damaging our homes. How many more to loose their lives is a question which remains unanswered especially after the assassination of Salman Taseer.

Who will be the next to stand up like him and support a victim of intolerance and extremism? Again I have no names in my mind after Sherry Rehman has withdrawn the bill to amend blasphemy laws. Now is silence acceptable or are we going to speak out?
It can be the strategy which is not being productive. I, somehow, agreed to what Karen Armstrong has suggested at Karachi Literary Festival. To a question on how are you going to convince Mumtaz Qadri, she said, “debate with them in a non-confrontational way rather attacking their belief system”.

I am not at all sure that it will work 100 per cent, but the options are already not many to deal with this extremism. It is just to try out anything that pops up and carries logic.

Below is the story:
Express Tribune

KARACHI: At the Karachi Literature Festival, Karen Armstrong laid out a charter of compassion, with the dangers of an overpowering ego at the centre of her argument.

With a packed hall of people eagerly listening, the session began with a question posed by moderator Abbas Husain: if compassion is the prescription for the symptoms of the disease that is intolerance, then what is the cause of the disease? Without a moment’s hesitation, Armstrong answered: “Ego”.

It is ego, argues Armstrong, that makes us place ourselves and our beliefs at the centre of the universe. It is that same ego that then causes us to degrade and denigrate the beliefs and arguments of others, that makes us enter debates not with the intention of learning from them, but with the aim of proving the other wrong and ourselves right.

The remedy Karen Armstrong proposes for this condition is compassion. Were we to place ourselves in the other person’s shoes, the world would be an infinitely better place.

It is hard to argue with that but how on earth, as one audience member asked, do you debate with those who would rather use a gun to win their arguments? In short, how are you going to convince Mumtaz Qadri?

Armstrong responded by saying that in her experience, most hardline religious groups are motivated by fear, the fear that their beliefs and way of life are going to be wiped out. Their violence then, is a reaction to that fear. The answer, according to her, is not to attack their belief system but rather to debate with them in a non-confrontational way.

It is a neat argument, but also one that ignores the fact that for many extremist groups the quest for power is now an end in itself. And that fear is for them more a tool than a motivating factor. She does of course accept the fact that the sentiments of hardline religious groups are often exploited for political purposes, drawing on examples from the United States all the way to Pakistan.

God is not a politician, says Armstrong, but there is no denying that His word is used for political gain.

Another audience member argued that since religious beliefs seem to lead to violent arguments, perhaps the answer is to remove religion from our lives altogether. To this Armstrong responded that Homo Sapiens were in fact Homo Religiosis, and that denying religion is alien to human nature.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2011.

 

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