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.