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Category Archives: Religious intolerance

Kalash falls to Kalash–nikov


An honest answer to one simple question about your identity as a Pakistani or a Muslim explains the roots of extremism and an increasing intolerance among this society. I was asked this question many years ago, and my answer was not logical rather an abrupt and sudden gush of emotions. I said I am a Muslim first. The later years have weakened or killed that emotion and today I would like to answer in a different way.

The white patch in Pakistan’s flag which seems evaporating now, determines the answer. We are Pakistani first is a simple answer to this white patch. The difference in views of majority is stark. Majority now dreams of a homeland only for Muslims and the survival for rest depends on their submission to majority’s religion.

A few months ago, my friend Saad Sarfraz Sheikh, went to Kalash, a beautiful valley in the northwest of Pakistan, to capture its exotic beauty and rich culture. A tiny tribe of total 4,500 people, which cannot be a considerate share of the total 180 million Pakistanis, is about to be nonexistent. He returned with breathtaking pictures, but seemed perturbed. In the middle of the Kalash fairytale, he mentioned his visit to a school which did not have pupils for some unknown and known reasons. The school’s timetable shows a class of Islamic studies for the students who do not believe in Islam. How would Muslims feel if they are forced to attend a class on Christianity? In my view, they will be marching on roads, burning tyres and property, and calling it a threat to Islam and a Jewish conspiracy against Muslims. My friend mentioned that how tremendously Kalash has changed due to the extremist elements forcing the people to convert to Islam. Some radical Muslims, bound to spread Islam by force, began building mosques in the valley for Kalashis, who claim descent from Alexander the Great’s army.

The valley runs along the border ofAfghanistanand for centuries, they sacrificed animals and practiced polytheism without any interference from the Muslim community.

So what has changed now? The youth of this country, mainly inspired by Jihad against then Soviet Union, have grown up brandishing radicalized version of Islam. The concept of coexistence is at stake in this country, which has minimized the chances of survival for our minorities. Now the question arises that can all flee from this country in sheer despair and frustration? Will this country have space only for a particular sect of Islam? But we need to ask ourselves if we are humans or Pakistanis first or Muslims later? If the answer is Pakistanis first, I see hope.

Reuters Story:

Nestled among the valleys of Pakistan’s mountainous northwest, a tiny religious community that claims descent from Alexander the Great’s army is under increasing pressure from radicals bent on converting them to Islam.

The Kalash , who number just about 3,500 in Pakistan’s population of 180 million, are spread over three valleys along the border with Afghanistan. For centuries they practiced polytheism and animal sacrifice without interference from members of Pakistan’s Muslim majority.

But now they are under increasing danger from proselytising Muslim militants just across the border, and a hardline interpretation of Islam creeping through mainstream society — as Pook Shireen discovered.

After falling unconscious during a car accident , the mid-20s member of the paramilitary Chitral Scouts woke to find that people with him had converted him to Islam.

“Some of the Muslim people here try to influence the Kalash or encourage them by reading certain verses to them from the Koran,” said his mother, Shingerai Bibi.

“The men that were with him read verses of the Koran and then when he woke up they said to him, ‘You are a convert now to Islam’. So he converted.”

The conversion was a shock for his family. But they were lucky compared with other religious minorities under threat from growing religious conservatism that is destabilizing Pakistan, a nuclear-armed U.S. ally.

In May 2010, more than 80 Ahmadis, a minority who consider themselves Muslims but are regarded by Pakistan as non-Muslim, were killed in attacks on two mosques in Lahore.

Then in March this year, the Christian minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, whose job it was to protect groups like the Kalash, was assassinated outside his home in the capital, Islamabad, in an attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.

SMOOTH CO-EXISTENCE

The lush green Kalash valleys, which sit below snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Kush, have been a magnet for tourists, both for the scenery and for the people, who are indigenous to the area.

Most are fair and with light eyes, which they say proves their descent from the army of Alexander of Macedonia that passed through the area in the 4th century BC to invade India. The community brews its own wine and women are not veiled.

But the smooth co-existence between the Kalash and Muslims has been fading in recent months and the area is suffering from many of the religious tensions marring the rest of Pakistan.

The conversions are causing splits among the Kalash — converts become outcasts overnight, described by many as “dead to their families”.

“When a Kalash converts we don’t live with them in our houses anymore,” said farmer Asil Khan, sitting on a neighbor’s balcony.

“Our festivals and our culture are different. They can’t take part in the festivals or the way we live.”

Some in the area are so concerned that they believe segregation is the only way to protect the Kalash.

“We should move the Muslims out of the valley to make more room for the Kalash,” said Shohor Gul, a Kalash member of the border police who lives in Rumbur valley. “This area should be just for us. We dislike these conversions – it disturbs our culture and our festivals, and it reduces our numbers.”

The subject of Kalash festivals is raised often in these narrow valleys, where carefully cultivated corn crops cover what flat land exists, and the Kalash community’s distinctive wooden houses terrace the valley walls.

Held to usher in seasonal change or to pray for a good harvest, Kalash festivals include hypnotic dancing and animal sacrifice, fueled by the grape wine with which the Kalash lace their gatherings.

Converts to Islam say, though, that these rituals quicken the decision to leave the Kalash.

“The main thing wrong in the Kalash culture are these festivals,” said 29-year-old convert Rehmat Zar. “When someone dies the body is kept in that house for three days.”

Muslims usually bury people the day they die.

Zar added of the Kalash: “They slaughter up to a hundred goats and the family are mourning – but those around them are celebrating, beating drums, drinking wine and dancing. Why are they celebrating this? That’s wrong.”

NOT ALL MUSLIMS

Not all of the area’s Muslims feel this way.

Qari Barhatullah is the imam, or priest, at the Jami Masjid in Bumboret valley’s Shikanandeh village.

He stresses that many of the valley’s Muslims value the Kalash’s contributions to the area’s tourism industry and contends that Kalash festivals run parallel to their own.

He admits though that there is tension between the two communities. Unveiled Kalash girls in colorful homemade skirts and head-dresses grow up alongside Muslim women covered by the all-enveloping burqas.

The Kalash girls are also free to marry who they chose, in a country where arranged marriages are common.

“We do support the Kalash – Islam teaches us respect for other religions – but there are people here, maybe they are not as educated – who don’t like the Kalash because of their religion,” Barhatullah said.

Akram Hussain oversees the Kalasha Dur, a cultural center devoted to promoting and protecting the Kalash culture, a stunning structure of elegantly crafted carved wooden beams and stone where Kalash children are educated. It also houses a library, clinic and museum, which are open to both the Kalash and Muslim communities.

“Some of the Muslims here don’t want to educate the Kalash people. They don’t want us to have an education,” he said.

Without more schools that cater exclusively to the Kalash, though, Hussain worries his community and culture will be disappear.

“There are few Kalash teachers and there aren’t schools for older children, so they go to the secondary schools and learn about Islam. The Muslim teachers are brainwashing them. They tell the children that Islam is the only right way and that we are going to hell,” he said.

A provincial spokesman said the regional government is funding development projects for the Kalash and that Pakistan was committed to protecting their unique heritage.

“We have set aside 15 million rupees ($173,210) over three years for projects such as improving roads, water supply systems and community centers,” said Ahmad Hassan. “Whatever the Kalash say they need.”

Others in the Kalash valleys though say development should cease and insist the adoption of Islam should continue, despite the impact on the Kalash culture.

Rehmat Zar, the Kalash convert, says his eventual aim is to convert his entire community to Islam.

“I’m trying my best to convert many of the Kalash myself. I’m trying to convert as many as I can,” he said.

“The people who are trying to preserve the Kalash culture are doing wrong. They are committing a mistake. The Kalash should convert to Islam because this is the real, and last, religion”. ($1 = 86.600 Pakistani rupees)

 

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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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Living between fear and courage


Moni Mohsin: Moni Mohsin's latest novel is Tender Hooks (Random House). She lives between Lahore and London. She had known Salman Taseer since she was a teenager. "Gutted by his murder and nauseated by the public reaction to it," she mourns the death of a proud liberal.

India Today
Fifteen years ago when I married a London-based Pakistani, my brother-in-law Najam Sethi said laughingly to my mother, “Moni will be the only one of your children to survive the coming storm.” He was only half-joking. As a progressive journalist who has received more death threats from the religious right than I care to count, he has personal experience of the danger to secular liberals from an increasingly intolerant Pakistani polity. He knows that anyone who takes issue with the mullahs or speaks for the rights of our marginalised minorities or even objects to the cynical use of religion in politics, runs the risk of being killed. As the murder of the Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer, showed last week, no liberal is safe in Pakistan.

In London, on the other hand, I have enjoyed a life of safety, stability and the rule of law. But I have also tasted the bitterness of separation from my homeland and of my increasing irrelevance to it. I have tried to mitigate the pain by keeping alive my contact with my country. I contribute regularly to its publications, sit on charitable trusts and maintain property there. I also take my children back frequently so they can grow up feeling at home in what a huge part of me still considers home.

Moni Mohsin’s latest novel is Tender Hooks (Random House). She lives between Lahore and London. She had known Salman Taseer since she was a teenager. “Gutted by his murder and nauseated by the public reaction to it,” she mourns the death of a proud liberal.

On January 4, my husband, children and I boarded a plane back for London. As always, we had spent our Christmas holidays in Pakistan. Though grateful to have spent time with my parents and siblings, I was unhappy with my visit. In the time I had spent in Pakistan, I had witnessed yet again, from close quarters, the depressing spectacle of a fracturing society and collapsing State. In my three short weeks there, I heard from all quarters of kidnappings, shootings, hold-ups and burglaries. No one reported any of the crimes for they knew there would be no action.

Every time the phone rings at an odd hour, my heart leaps into my mouth. I don’t want to be the only member of my family to survive the storm.

During a bitterly cold winter, there was little gas and less electricity; flood victims were pouring into cities; inflation was rampant; people were sullen; and in the background, a cowering, feeble government was anxiously assuring fulminating mullahs of its undying support for the blasphemy law. On New Year’s Eve, religious parties called a countrywide strike to support the blasphemy law. Either out of fear or sympathy, everyone obeyed. So much, I thought to myself, for Jinnah’s dream of a tolerant homeland for Muslims.

As my plane took off from Lahore’s Allama Iqbal Airport, a couple of hundred miles to the north outside Islamabad’s Kohsar Market, yet another blow was being dealt to Jinnah’s dream. Airborne by the time it happened, I did not find out till we landed in Heathrow. As I switched on my phone, a text from my brother-in-law flashed across the screen: Tragedy: Salman Taseer murdered by his own security guard.

I’d known Salman since I was a teenager. His eldest daughter and I are close friends. Our daughters in turn have been buddies from the cradle. So I’d had the opportunity to observe Salman from close quarters for over 25 years. If I were to use one word to describe him, it would be “uncompromising. He was uncompromising in both his political and personal life. Unlike some sermonising politicians who preach Islamic values in Pakistan and party with A-listers in London, Salman scorned hypocrisy. He was a proud liberal in everything and everywhere. He was also a man of wit, charm and above all, courage.

I am gutted by his murder and nauseated by the public reaction to it. Some of it I had expected. I had expected the religious parties to crow. Having already witnessed his own party’s moral cowardice, I had known that all mainstream parties would run for cover. I also knew that some fanatics would issue public threats-of course completely unchecked by the State-to Salman’s supporters. I knew that TV “analysts”, who’d probably envied Salman’s flamboyance all along, would smugly hold forth on his “insensitivity” towards “our people’s delicate religious sensibilities”. I was nauseated but not surprised by any of that.

But what I had not expected was that over 200 lawyers, who until last week were championing democracy and freedom of speech, would shower his murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, with rose petals. I had not expected Pakistanis like myself, who live in the West and enjoy every one of its hard-won liberties, to set up Facebook pages lauding Salman’s murderer as a hero. I had not expected the blogs of ordinary middle-class kids, who salivate over Angelina Jolie and dream of a green card, to condone the murder of “an immoral Westernised liberal”. I had not expected novelist Hanif Mohammed to do a random poll in Karachi and discover that most people he spoke to on the street outside his office did not condemn Salman’s murder.

I had not expected all this because it has long been my sustaining belief that though we are ruled by a venal army and morally corrupt politicians and though we are terrorised by a small but murderous fringe of hardliners, the ordinary person on the street is a decent moderate who yearns for stability and the rule of law. After all, I reassure myself, religious parties have always been humiliated at the ballot box. That belief is why, despite all the kidnappings and the gunnings and the fatwas and suicide bombs, I keep taking my children back. That is the reason why, after 15 years abroad, I am still mentally, emotionally and financially invested in Pakistan.

Of course, I would be lying if I said that no one spoke up for Salman in Pakistan.

As usual it was left to the same small group of embattled progressives to pick up the baton. A few brave journalists condemned Salman’s murder on tv. English language newspapers wrote editorials against mounting intolerance in Pakistan. Human rights groups vociferously registered their protest. Candle-lit vigils outside the fallen Governor’s residence in Lahore and at Kohsar Market in Islamabad, were attended by housewives and schoolchildren and office workers. But compared to the thousands who expressed support for Qadri, a few hundred attended the vigils. Where were all the concerned citizens I meet in Lahore and Karachi every time I visit, who sit in their homes bemoaning the lack of security, the mounting disorder, the brutalisation of society?

The answer is simple: they were still in their homes. As soon as the murder was announced on TV, most people fled to the safety of their homes to barricade themselves in. Streets emptied and shops closed within minutes of the announcement. Most people have experienced enough violence to be truly fearful of it. I sympathise with them. I also fear for my family, as I do for every liberal left standing in Pakistan. Every time the phone rings at an odd hour, my heart leaps into my mouth. I don’t want to be the only member of my family to survive the storm. And I feel guilty that I am not there to struggle alongside them.

If I could have my selfish way, I would immediately spirit each member of my family and every single friend out of there. But I also know that if I did so, all would be lost. And I know that we must continue trying to reach out to the people-still the majority, in my view, despite the depredations in their ranks-who want peace and freedom but are too frightened to ask. We must encourage them to stand up and demand it. So I live every day hovering between hope and dread, fear and courage. May my hope and my friends’ and family’s courage be vindicated in my lifetime.

 

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In memory of Salmaan Taseer: Death at a Funeral


Death at a Funeral

January 5, 2011 by Sher Ali Khan

Repeated photographs of a killer flashed on to the screen, as another martyr was created in Pakistan. Governor Salmaan Taseer stood right in the middle of the growing divide in Pakistan between decay and modernization.

Over the years, with the deteriorating socio-economic situation and rampant radicalization in the country a complete decay of thought and rationality has taken charge, which is leading the country back into the stone ages. The religious parties, which have been legitimized over the years, are becoming the alternative to the curse word known as democracy.

During the last two months, Taseer had taken a moderated stance asking for the parliament to probe into the blasphemy law, which almost everyone had repeated. The threat that Taseer posed was that he was willing to push the warped societal boundaries, which are based upon moral assumptions that have not been present for centuries.

The cleric has become a defining force in our society and no one is allowed to question credentials or the persons basis for assessment. Coming with the backing of god, their word is fast becoming an unchallengeable aspect in our society. Without an educational base to filter out the extremist ideology and thought there is a growing acceptance to extremism and radical thought.

Generally speaking Salmaan Taseer was one of the last voices to openly condemn terrorists and extremism even calling them “sick and demented” while also challenging their basis of authority. He had so cleverly grown into the role as governor using his technical background to wittingly challenge the politicians lack of activism against terrorists and extremists.

The consequent reaction to the murder of Salmaan Taseer was the gruesome celebration of his death by various reporters and TV anchors. The war had been won for these individuals who warned that his stance was a pro-American one. While playing down the significance of virtues such as hard work and education, these men boasted with pride explaining that his murder contributed to the overall betterment of society.

Looking forward as progressive voices continue to be silenced, one has to question the whole basis of right and wrong. Till this debate is settled the conception of Pakistan will be a mystery and in many ways a farce.

The Author was assigned the Governor beat in Lahore.

 

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Appeasement policy towards religious intolerance leads to murder of a governor


A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Appeasement policy towards religious intolerance leads to
murder of a governor

The nation has suffered a great loss due to this tragic murder. A
voice of sanity has been silenced. This has happened at a time when
the kind of political leadership provided by Salman Taseer is most
needed. He stood for basic values which are essential for the
stability of Pakistan. His shocking death should be an awakening for
all right-thinking people of Pakistan about the perils that the
country is facing. Creating chaos is not difficult under the tense
conditions under which Pakistan has functioned for a considerable time
now. The benefits of such chaos will only go to a few. However, the
consequences of this death can seriously harm the population which may
begin to react with fear of such murders. It is time for all concerned
persons and the government to react soberly but strongly on this
occasion in order to ensure that the benefits of this situation will
go to those are bent on creating chaos.

The incident is a clear demonstration of the religious hatred and
fanatical mindset that has seeped into the society. The sin of
Governor Salman Taseer was that he was openly criticising the misuse
of the blasphemy laws not only by the fundamentalists but also by the
courts and politicians. He was opposed to section 295-C of the
Pakistan Penal Code which was promulgated by the former military
dictator, General Zia-ul- Haq which dictates the death penalty to
alleged blasphemers.

It is very ironic that the fanatic Muslim leaders were openly
declaring that Governor Salman Taseer is Wajibul Qatl (must be
killed). They even publically announced reward money for the killings
of any person who opposes the blasphemy laws. However, the government
has made no move to arrest the fundamentalists. The Asian Human Rights
Commission (AHRC) on December 8, 2010 issued an Urgent Appeal
demanding that the government prosecute Muslim leaders who issued
decrees to kill Aasia Bibi. The AHRC also mentioned that Governor
Salman Taseer has been declared infidel so the government should
provide protection.

The policy of appeasement for the Muslim fundamentalists is simply
political expediency. In particular, the governments of Pakhtoon Kha,
Punjab provinces and the federal government have ignored the severity
of the religious madness which has made the society intolerant. The
media and its anchor persons are also responsible for the killing of
the governor as they were enjoying the controversy over the blasphemy
laws and were inviting fanatic Muslim leaders to take part in their
discussions. It was during these media discussions that they openly
urged the masses to act against Governor Taseer and Ms. Sherry Rehman,
the former federal minister who introduced a private bill in the
national assembly against section 295-c of blasphemy laws, as they
were both infidel and Wajibul Qatl.

It is also found that Punjab provincial government is notorious in
providing shelter to the leaders of banned religious terrorist
organizations and in many cases particularly during the election
campaigns, the provincial law minister was taking leaders of banned
religious parties in the processions so as to garner the votes of the
fundamentalists. The Punjab government was holding the conferences of
Tahafuz-e-Namoos-e- Risalat where the religious leaders were openly
threatening death to religious minorities and liberals for blasphemy,
particularly against the Ahmedis.

The governor’s assassin, Police Constable Mumtaz Quadri of the Elite
Force fired a burst from his machine pistol of which 26 rounds struck
Taseer. According to a pre-planned arrangement no security policemen
attempted to stop him. He first fired one shot and this was followed
by a total of 40 rounds. Three days before the shooting Quadri told
his colleagues that he was planning to kill the governor after which
he would surrender so as not to be killed himself. The Elite Force was
created by the chief minister of Punjab in 1997 and since then it has
become parallel to the police force. All appointments are made by the
ruling party of Punjab on political basis. Quadri claimed that he
killed the governor because he was opposed to the blasphemy laws.

Controversies abounded between the ruling party and the governor’s
house. The chief minister never liked his presence because the
governor was very vocal against the lukewarm attitude of the ruling
party towards the militant religious groups. The provincial government
did not obey the orders of the governor and, in fact, they were not
even on speaking terms.

The reports in the media suggest that the incident was not carried
out by a single person but was rather the result of a conspiracy. It
must be noted that the conspiracy was hatched through the Elite Force
which is run by the provincial law minister who was very much against
the governor and supportive of militant Muslim organisations. The
Punjab government was responsible for the provision of the security to
all VIPs in the province. It is a strange that a person with such
extremist inclinations was deployed in the governor’s security detail
which raises eye brows on the murder.

The murder of the Governor Taseer shows that the country is being
controlled by the military and the Mullahs and is rapidly turning into
a fascist state. The use of loud speakers from the mosques, which is
actually already against the law, must be halted firmly so that
religious and sectarian hatred cannot be spread throughout society.
The government must come out from behind the policy of appeasement of
the fundamentalists and put a stop to the cancer that is destroying
the country.

 

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Sign a petition: A Hindu community is attacked and evicted on Blasphemy charges


What saddens me is the fact that not a single incident could teach a lesson to those who are biased and believe in vested interests. Protests generated within civil society, people, and human rights organizations could not so far put a halt on future violations of human rights. It piles up lot of frustration and I can well imagine that those who have spent their lives in a hope to create a peaceful and fair environment for minorities here in Pakistan must be shaken with a new wave of extremism. But, defending human rights is a long and unending process which is shaken but can never be collapsed.

Once again, blasphemy comes for the rescue of extremist forces when a Muslim mob attacked Hindu families in Sindh. They have been living in Mirpurkhas for almost a century and on an accusation of writing abusive language against Prophet (PBHU), they had to vacate their houses. Angry mob burned three houses belonging to Hindus and many children and women were assaulted. Seven Hindus were arrested on blasphemy charges. Police and rangers tried hard to control the situation, but it kept going out of their control. One innocent Muslim died in crossfire; whereas one ranger got injured.

If one goes back in the context, it is understood that the whole chaos and hatred do not base on religion rather it is pure material. Land grabbing is not new to me rather I have observed that it has been one of the most prominent reasons leading to attacks on minorities. This case is not so different. The role of a Maulvi (religious cleric) in flaring up the mob emotions is condemnable. The job of religious clerics is just not to become custodians and authority on religion rather guiding people on right path is their supreme duty. The bias and hatred in Maulvis play an important role in dividing people further, quite opposite to what they are supposed to do. In many cases with some exceptions, loudspeakers of Mosque are used to assemble and then motivate people to attack minorities in the name of Islam. The implementation of any law has always been a hard task and carries many weaknesses. Same goes for “Loud Speaker Act 1965” in which Section 3 prohibits use of loudspeaker except for prayers. In 2004, it was made compulsory, but due to having no check and balance system, it was never implemented fully. The misuse has a horrifying side to it which made killing and all sort of violence possible against minorities.

The demand to repeal blasphemy laws by human rights defenders is becoming stronger especially under the given perspective. These laws are meant to target one section of society which has an equal right to live here peacefully. The intolerance has plagued the society which has infected majority of people. Sane voices are becoming rare and sensitive minds are becoming oblivious. It is not a good sign and we all have to raise our voices against extremism and religious intolerance to defeat the extremist forces.

Everyone please sign the petition to prove that we are on the right path and humanity is the greatest religion.

Below is the story:

PAKISTAN: A Hindu community is attacked and evicted on fabricated
Blasphemy charges, houses burned causing death of a person by firing

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information
that a Muslim group attacked on a Hindu community that had been living
there for a century during the early hours on 23 August 2010 in order
to grab the land occupied by the Hindu community in Sindh Province of
Pakistan. The Hindu community, who are minority in Pakistan, had been
forced to vacate their houses and assets from the area. Three houses
were burnt by the Muslim attackers. Many women and children were
assaulted and seven Hindu men were arrested on fabricated charges of
Blasphemy for writing abusive language against the last prophet (peace
be upon him) of Islam on the walls around the mosque. The loudspeakers
of the mosque were used to provoke the Muslim residents to attack on
the Hindu community. A young Muslim man was killed during the exchange
of firing between the attackers and the Pakistan Rangers.

The government authorities have not taken any initiative to protect
the minority community till date.

CASE NARRATIVE:

A centuries-old Hindu community had settled in Mir Wah Gorchani city,
Mirpurkhas district of Sindh province and their main settlement were
known as the Bhemo Mal Megwar colony and Metha Ram Megwar Para. The
total population of the Hindus in the area is more than 400 and the
community has been in existence before the formation of Pakistan.

In the early hours of 23 August 2010, at around 2am, Maulvi Mushtaq
Ahmed Naqshbandi, a leader of the local mosque and Jamia Siddiqia
seminary, announced through the loudspeakers that there was some wall
chalking in which abusive words had been written against the last
prophet (Peach be upon him) of Islam by the Hindus. He provoked that
the people should come out from houses to teach the Hindu community a
lesson. When some people asked for proof that the Hindus were
responsible for the chalking Maulvi said that a truck driver had
informed him that when he was entering the area near the mosque he saw
a young man standing at the wall and after seeing the driver he (young
man) ran away towards the Hindu community of Bhemo Mal Megwar. The
driver saw the wall chalking and he quickly informed this to Maulvi.

Maulvi also provoked the Muslim inhabitants to search the houses of
the Hindus and find the young man whose hand must be stained with
black ink. Around 50 persons under the leadership of Maulvi started
searching each house during which women were dragged by the hair out
from the houses in their sleeping garments conditions; children were
kicked to force them to leave the houses. There were 60 houses and it
took three hours to search for the man suspected of the blasphemy but
no such person was found in the community. When the situation
deteriorated after the humiliation of the Hindus and the threats from
the Muslims to burn the Hindu-houses, a police party under district
police officer of Mirpurkahs arrived and started controlling the mob
of more than three hundred Muslims. The angry mob started pelting the
police with stones shouting slogans to burn down the houses of the
Hindus. The mob then burned three houses and looted the belongings of
the community.

In the meantime the loudspeakers of the mosque were continuously used
to provoke the Muslims to attack the houses of Hindus of Bhemo Mal
Megwar that might have provided shelter to the person, who had written
blasphemous writings on the walls around the mosque. The mob was
swelling and going out of control so the Rangers were called to help
the police in controlling the mob. As the Rangers came some miscreants
used fire arms during which one Ranger, Mr. Haq Nawaz, received a
bullet injury. The rangers and police used tear gas shell and baton
charged the mob. On the demand of the Muslim leaders seven Hindus were
arrested on the charges of Blasphemy. The arrested persons were Mr.
Faqeero, Mr. Kirchand, Mr. Mukesh, Mr. Kishan, Mr. Prem and Mr. Heroo
Ram Chand. One possible reason for their arrest is that they were the
only persons available at that time as the Hindus fled the area to
take shelter in other places. The minority community also left all
their belongings and animals that have been without water and fodder
since then.

One young Muslim man, Mohammad Imran, was killed by gunfire. In the
funeral prayers one particular person attended. He is Pir Aube Jan
Sarhandi, from Sanghar city, of Sindh province, and is known in the
area along the Indian border to convert Hindu women to Islam by
abducting them. He openly claims that he has converted 2000 Hindus to
Islam.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The Bheemo Mal Megwar Para has been a registered Hindu colony since
the creation of Pakistan but the area around this village is mostly
unregistered where many settlers from the Punjab province and migrants
from India have settled and made their houses. In recent days some
land grabbers have also grabbed the land of Musafir Khana, a public
land, and constructed well concrete houses with the connivance of the
officials of the land department. A journalist, Mr. Rana Jameel Ahmed
and one Haji Khalid Papoo have made their houses in front of the main
road to Bheemo Mal Para, narrowing down the path towards Bheemo Mal.
Observing the threatening situation the Hindu community made a wall
around their settlement and erected an iron gate, both of which were
demolished by an angry mob during the above mentioned incident on 23
August. It is alleged that government sent some officers from land
department of Sindh to vacate the grabbed land but the officials made
some settlement with the illegal occupants of the government land. The
alleged grabbers also received help from the mosque leaders.

The same method was applied last year by the alleged land grabbers in
Soomra colony of Mirpurkhas where, during the Hindu festival of Holy
(colour festival) two Hindu communities, the Kohli para and Bheel
Para, were attacked on the false charges of writing blasphemous words.
The Hindus had to leave the area and moved to other places. The land
grabbers have purchased the land from these two communities at throw
away prices.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The dark aspect of the incident is that extreme, militant Muslim
organizations are using the tool of blasphemy as the best way to keep
religious minority groups under pressure. The State is failing to
protect the lives and property of the minority community. The
blasphemy law has made it compulsory that no police officer below the
level of Superintendent of Police can investigate the charges but this
is rarely adhered to.

Religious minority groups in Pakistan remain vulnerable due to the
continued use and abuse of blasphemy charges, despite section 295C of
the Pakistan Penal Code. The police, who fail to follow the code and
who operate under the directive of extremists in the community, must
face strong legal action. Charges of blasphemy are still met with the
death penalty in Pakistan.

The misuse of loudspeakers is continuous in Pakistan despite the
Section 3 of the Loud Speaker Act 1965. And again in 2004 it was made
compulsory that loudspeakers from mosques can be used only for call of
prayers and Friday sermons in Arabic language. But the irony is that
mosques’ leaders are frequently using the loudspeakers and the state
is ignoring the acts of Muslim religious groups which result in
spreading hatred against the religious minority groups.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities urging them to take stern
action against the persons responsible for attacking on the
century-old settlements of the Hindu community. Please also urge the
authorities to stop the misuse of Blasphemy law. The misuse of
loudspeakers from the mosques should be stopped. The government should
help the displaced Hindu community for their rehabilitation in their
own settlements. Maulvi Mushtaq should be arrested and prosecuted on
the charges of misusing loudspeakers from the mosque and taking search
of the houses of the Hindu community illegally. The government should
also provide compensation to the family of the Muslim man, Mr.
Mohammad Imran, who was killed during the firing from the extremist
elements.

To support this appeal, please click here:
<http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/support.php?ua=UAC-119-2010>

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

PAKISTAN: Hindu community was attacked and evicted on false charges
of Blasphemy, one person killed by firing

Names of the victims:

1. Mr. Faqeero

2. Mr. Kirchand

3. Mr. Mukesh

4. Mr. Kishan

5. Mr. Prem

6. Mr. Heroo Ram Chand,

All are living in Bheemo Mal Megwar Para,Mir Wah Gorchani city,
Mirpurkas district, Sindh province

7. Inhabitants belonging to the Hindu Community settled in Bheemo Mal
Megwar Para, Mir Wah Gorchani city, Mirpurkas district, Sindh province

8. Mr. Mohammad Imran, died in exchange of firing, Mir Wah Gorchani
city, Mirpurkas district, Sindh province

Names of alleged perpetrators:

1. Maulvi Mushtaq Naqshbandi, Head of Jamia Siddiqia Madressa and
mosque, Mir Wah Gorchani city, Mirpurkas district, Sindh province

2 . Mr. Haq Nawaz, Official of Pakistan Rangers, Mirpurkhas district,
Sindh province

Date of incident: 23 August 2010

Place of incident: Bheemo Mal Megwar Para, Mir Wah Gorchani city,
Mirpurkas district, Sindh province

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the attack on the
settlement of the Hindu community at Bheemo Mal Megwar Para, Mir Wah
Gorchani city, Mirpurkas district,Sindh province, by Muslim extremists
on the false charges of writing blasphemous slogans on and around the
walls of close to the mosque. They burned the houses of the Hindus and
looted their belongings. One Muslim man was killed during the firing
from the extremist elements.

It is shocking for me that on the early hours of August 23, at around
2am Maulvi Mushtaq Ahmed Naqshbandi, a leader of the local mosque and
seminary known as Jamia Siddiqia, announced through the loudspeakers
of the local mosque that there were some wall chalking in which
abusive words were written against the last prophet of Islam by the
Hindus. He provoked that the Muslim people should come out from houses
to teach the Hindu community a lesson. When some people asked about
the prove that Hindus have written abusive language, the Maulvi said
that a truck-driver informed him that when he was entering the area
near the mosque he saw a young man was standing with the wall and
after seeing driver he ran away towards the Hindu community, the Bhemo
Mal Megwar. The driver saw the wall chalking and quickly informed this
to Maulvi.

Maulvi also provoked the Muslim people to search the houses of the
Hindus and find the young man whose hand must be stained with black
ink. Around 50 persons under the leadership of Maulvi started
searching each houses during which women were dragged by the hair out
from the houses in their sleeping garments conditions, children were
kicked to force them to leave the houses. There were 60 houses and it
took three hours to search for the man suspected of the blasphemy but
no such person was found in the community. When the situation
deteriorated after the humiliation of Hindus and the threats to burn
their houses a police party under district police officer of
Mirpurkahs arrived and started controlling the mob of more than three
hundred Muslims. The angry mob started pelting the police with stones
shouting slogans to burn down the houses of Hindus. The mob then
burned three houses and looted the belongings of the community.

In the meantime the loudspeakers of the mosque were continuously used
to provoke the Muslims to attack the houses of Hindus of Bhemo Mal
Megwar who might have provided shelter to the person who had written
blasphemous writings on the walls around the mosque. The mob was
swelling and going out of control so the Rangers were called to help
the police in controlling the mob. As the Rangers came some miscreants
used fire arms during which one Ranger, Mr. Haq Nawaz, received a
bullet injury. The rangers and police used tear gas shell and baton
charged the mob. On the demand of the Muslim leaders seven Hindus were
arrested on the charges of Blasphemy. The arrested persons were Mr.
Faqeero, Mr. Kirchand, Mr. Mukesh, Mr. Kishan, Mr. Prem and Mr. Heroo
Ram Chand. One possible reason for their arrest is that they were the
only persons available at that time as the Hindus fled the area to
take shelter in other places. They also left all their belongings and
animals that have been without water and fodder since then.

One young Muslim man, Mohammad Imran, was killed by gunfire. In the
funeral prayers one particular person attended. He is Pir Aube Jan
Sarhandi, from Sanghar city, Sindh, and is known in the area along the
Indian border to convert Hindu women to Islam by abducting them. He
openly claims that he has converted 2000 Hindus to Islam.

I am appalled as to how a leader of a mosque can order the people to
search of each and every house for a person for writing the alleged
blasphemous slogans. How the law was given over to the hands of an
Imam of a mosque, is this the rule of law in the country? I am also
concerned with the misuse of loudspeakers from the mosques and how
they are frequently used against the religious minority groups.

According to the information I have received, it seems to me that the
local administration is at the mercy of the extremist Muslim groups
who use their influence against the religious minority groups in Sindh
province. Many Hindu communities have already left their settlements
because of the absence of rule of law in the interior of Sindh.

I urge you to take stern action against the persons responsible for
attacking on the century-old settlements of the Hindu community. I
also urge the authorities to stop the misuse of Blasphemy law without
properly following the law. The misuse of loudspeakers from the
mosques should be stopped. The government should help the displaced
Hindu community for their rehabilitation in their own settlements.
Maulvi Mushtaq should be arrested and prosecuted on the charges of
misusing loudspeakers from the mosque and taking search of the each
houses of the Hindu community illegally. The government should also
provide compensation to the family of Mr. Mohammad Imran who was
killed during the firing from the extremist elements.

Yours sincerely,

—————-

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari

President of Pakistan

President’s Secretariat

Islamabad, PAKISTAN,

Tel: 92-51-9204801-9214171

Fax 92-51-9207458

Email: publicmail@president.gov.pk

2. Mr. Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani

Prime Minister of Pakistan

Prime Minister House

Islamabad

PAKISTAN

Fax: + 92 51 9221596

E-mail: secretary@cabinet.gov.pk

3. Syed Qaim Ali Shah

Chief Minister

Karachi, Sindh Province

PAKISTAN

Fax: +92 21 920 2000

E-mail: pppsindh@yahoo.com

4. Mr.Syed Mumtaz Alam Gillani

Federal Minister for Human Rights

Ministry of Human Rights

Old US Aid building

Ata Turk Avenue

G-5, Islamabad

PAKISTAN

Fax: +9251-9204108

Email: sarfaraz_yousuf@yahoo.com

5. Mr. Muhammad Ayaz Soomro

Minister for Law, Parliamantry Affairs & Criminal Prosecution Service

Sindh Assembly Building,

Court road, Karachi, Sindh province

PAKISTAN

Fax: +92 21 9211982

E-mail: secy.law@sindh.gov.pk

6. Chief Justice of Sindh High Court

High Court Building

Saddar, Karachi

Sindh Province

PAKISTAN

Fax: +92 21 9213220

E-mail: info@sindhhighcourt.gov.pk

7. Ms. Nadia Gabol

Minister for Human Rights

Government of Sindh,

Pakistan secretariat, Barrack 92,

Karachi, Sindh Province

PAKISTAN

Fax: +92 21 9207044

Tel: +92 21 9207043 +92 21 9207043 +92 21 9207043 +92 21 9207043 +92
21 9207043 +92 21 9207043 +92 21 9207043 +92 21 9207043

E-mail: lukshmil@yahoo.com

8. Dr. Faqir Hussain

Registrar

Supreme Court of Pakistan

Constitution Avenue, Islamabad

PAKISTAN

Fax: + 92 51 9213452

E-mail: mail@supremecourt.gov.pk

9. Inspector General of Police

Police Head office, I. I. Chundrigar road

Karachi, Sindh Province

PAKISTAN

Fax: +92 21 9212051

 
 

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Minorities fear to walk…………


August 11 will be marked as “Minority Day” in Pakistan, but will there ever be any day when no minority feels victimized and persecuted. It looks like other religions are being threatened in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh where some discriminatory acts have confirmed the monopoly of one religion—Islam. Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity have been neglected so that only Islam can be patronized and encouraged. The myth behind this insecurity could never make any sense to me when I look at the size of these groups. They are not that gigantic minority like Muslims in sub-continent before 1947 that it would demand a separate homeland or ask for their religion to be declared as state religion. What these people always tried to look for in this country is their rights as citizens, freedom to practice their religions and a peaceful life with a strong sense of belonging to this country. Muslims want their mosques to be seen at every nook and corner in the western world, but refuse to give same space to others’ worship places in their respective countries. This extremist and self centered approach has already crippled the true spirit of Islam and will never let the idea of coexistence o be evolved.  The international silence should become the voice of humanity where all religions are equal and no country is authorized to crush its minorities.

Article:
Pakistan Christian Post

In modern day Bangladesh and Pakistan you have constant persecution of non-Muslim minorities and also minority Muslim communities are being killed in the name of radical Sunni Islam in Pakistan. Therefore, Ahmadiyya Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Shia Muslims, Sikhs, and others, face daily persecution and hatred in Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively.

On August 11th this year it will be “Minority Day” in Pakistan, however, Dr. Nazir S. Bhatti of the Pakistan Christian Congress announced that they will be observing ‘Black Day” because of the constant persecution of minorities in Pakistan.

Dr. Nazir S. Bhatti states “How we can celebrate Minority Day in Pakistan when our innocent brothers are being killed by Islamic militants and our women are being gang raped and enforcedly converted to Islam.”

It is clear that the partition of India led to chaos and hundreds of thousands of people were murdered. After this chaos divisions would emerge between East Pakistan and West Pakistan and further bloodshed would occur, with the outcome being the sovereign nations of Bangladesh and Pakistan. However, while India remains to be multi-religious, the opposite is happening in Bangladesh and Pakistan because religious minorities are facing the brute reality of radical Sunni Islam.

To make matters worse both Bangladesh and Pakistan would witness the gradual Islamization of their societies, notably Pakistan, and massive corruption and persecution of women would continue. The Islamization of both nations was especially traumatic for Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan and for Hindus and Buddhists in Bangladesh. Not surprisingly, this Islamic persecution of minorities in both nations re-awakened anti-Islamic feelings in India.

Christians in Pakistan also began to feel the brunt of radical Sunni Islam and the same applies to Ahmadiyya Muslims who suffer greatly. At the same time you also have growing divisions within Sunni Islam and the usual Sunni-Shia divide led to many massacres and terrorist attacks.

However, unlike the destruction of Buddhism and Hinduism in Afghanistan which happened centuries earlier because of Islamic conquests, forced conversions to Islam, systematic persecution, and controlling all leverages of power; the Islamization of Bangladesh and Pakistan took place in the twentieth century and continues today.

Yet why are the religions of Buddhism and Hinduism being allowed to be destroyed in both nations? After all, Buddhists in Bangladesh were a small minority and they could never threaten Islam; the same applies to Hindus in Pakistan. Despite this, the international community remains very silent.

Therefore, why did other nations remain quiet when massive religious persecution was taking place? After all, nations like France, the United Kingdom and America were espousing ‘democracy’ and liberals were glorifying multi-faith societies and stating that Islam was a religion of peace. At the same time major institutions like the Commonwealth, which espoused global human rights, remained quiet despite religious persecution and pogroms in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In Pakistan the destruction of Hinduism and persecution of Hindus took many forms. The first path was the massacre of Hindus during partition and forcing Hindus to leave via coercion. However, over the last 50 years the destruction of Hinduism in modern day Pakistan was based on past Islamic global conquests and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed who sanctioned the persecution of non-Muslims. For the Prophet Mohammed had told his followers to ‘Fight those who believe not in God nor the last day . . . Nor acknowledge the religion of truth (Islam) . . .’ Therefore, the followers of Hinduism were to be subdued in accordance with the teachings of Islamic Sharia Law, the Koran and the Hadiths.

Given this, Hindus were now a subdued minority, like Christians in Pakistan, and they were unequal in law and status in accordance with the teachings of Islam. At the same time Hindu temples were often converted into Muslim mosques or destroyed, and ancient Hindu architecture was left to collapse and fade away. The choice for many Hindus was either to convert to Islam in order to escape persecution, flee to India or to accept that they were second-class citizens in Pakistan. Not surprisingly, the Hindu population in Pakistan continued to decline and this civilization was being eradicated by Islam.

The situation for Buddhists in Bangladesh was different, for Buddhism had survived countless Islamic conquests in one region because of terrain and other factors; therefore, Buddhists and other faiths had survived in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. However, the increasing population of Bangladesh led to many problems and the government of Bangladesh hoped ‘to kill two birds with one stone.’ This applies to moving millions of Muslim people to remote parts of Bangladesh, notably the Chittagong Hill Tracts, while at the same time this new Muslim migration would crush the mainly Buddhist tribal opposition in this region.

Therefore, millions of Muslim migrants were moved into the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the mainly Buddhist tribals (some are Christian, Hindu or follow traditional beliefs) became embroiled in a civil war. Islamic radicals also moved into this region and many Buddhist priests were killed, including some being beheaded. At the same time hundreds of Buddhist temples were destroyed and the Bangladesh army took part in many massacres, and some Buddhist women were gang-raped by both Islamic zealots and the Bangladesh army.

In time the mainly Buddhist tribals were overwhelmed by the armed forces of Bangladesh and Muslim migration because this was a clear dual policy based on Islamization and control. Their situation, however, went unnoticed in the West and Islamic nations obviously remained silent. To make matters worse, the mainly Buddhist tribes had no nation supporting them and no major world leader to draw attention to their plight. Given this, the government of Bangladesh continues with this policy and Buddhists and other minorities face the ongoing Islamization of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Therefore, the destruction of thousands of years of Hindu/Buddhist civilization in these nations is being destroyed and the world remains largely silent. It is clear that mainly Buddhist nations like Japan (and Shinto), Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and others, should form an organization to help their co-religionists; with Japan being the main financial power to raise awareness of Buddhist persecution. However, sadly this is not happening and India clearly did not do enough in order to protect or raise the issue of Hindu persecution in both Bangladesh and Pakistan.

If global silence continues then Buddhism will one day be eradicated in Bangladesh. However, the global community did condemn the Taliban in Afghanistan for destroying Buddhist statues and art, yet the same global community remains quiet when Buddhist tribes are being systematically persecuted. Does this mean that Buddhist art in Afghanistan is more important than the persecution of Buddhist communities and the gang rape of Buddhist women in Bangladesh?

Surely the Hindus of Pakistan and Buddhists in the Chittagong Hill Tracts deserve better? If the international community remains silent about this crime, then soon these lands will be Islamized and religiously ‘cleansed.’

The ongoing silence is an international disgrace and because of this Islamists are now killing Ahmadiyya Muslims and Christians in Pakistan. After all, the world remained silent when Hindus and Sikhs faced massive persecution in Pakistan and the same applies to the constant destruction of Buddhist tribal villages in Bangladesh. Therefore, the persecution of all minorities is getting worse in modern day Pakistan.

The most vulnerable and ‘voiceless’ in Bangladesh and Pakistan have been abandoned by the international community. Why?

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2010 in Religious intolerance

 

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