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Mind your own religion


I found it an interesting read and thought it should be shared with my readers. The figure of 108,000 is huge and impressive when it is meant the number of those who have converted to Islam (by choice?) since 1989 by a man who was once a Hindu. In the town of Matli of Badin district, Sindh, Deen Mohammad Shaikh, a 70-year-old, wishes to see the entire world becoming Muslim.

Frankly, he did not inspire me as his wish hurts my ‘perfect world’ philosophy which shapes a way to the coexistence of all human beings with different faiths, creeds, ideologies, and cultures. I have not intended to comment on this for the sake of just criticism, but the disappointment has provoked me to share those resentful feelings.  The mindset of “Muslims winning, ruling the world” has a deep meaningful connection to Muslims psychological euphoria of being “superior.” The superiority which they have inherited from their glorious history which has created winners and conquerors is a push that keeps the fire burning.

I would wait till the day when a Hindu or, for that matter, a Christian decides to convert Muslims and Muslims all over the world will go gaga, protesting, burning properties, and killing people from other religions. Hold on, how easily the great Pakistani Muslims have chosen to forget the hard work they have put in harassing, intimidating and killing Ahmaids, Christians, Hindus and many more?

The only Muslim and Pakistani Nobel laureate was Abdus Salam who won it for his work on the electroweak unification of the electromagnetic and weak forces in 1979. No one else since then has reached to that level of excellence, and brought fame to this country, but he, too, suffered from the hate and negligence from this ‘religion stricken country’. His crime was that he was a proud Ahmadi. We bask in the glory of Muhammad Bin Qasim and Mehmood Ghaznavi, but ignore the existing pride out of our extreme bias, hatred and prejudice for those whose beliefs are different. Muhammad Bin Qasim and Mehmood Ghaznavi are past and I am not fully convinced if they are my heroes, but Abdus Salam certainly is. This country needs more of such people and their religion is not my business.

I stop here, enjoy the read….

 MATLI: Such are Deen Mohammad Shaikh’s powers of persuasion that he has converted 108,000 people to Islam since 1989, the year he left his birth religion Hinduism behind.

His multi-coloured business card describes the Matli dweller as the president of the Jamia Masjid Allah Wali and Madrassa Aisha Taleem-ul Quran – an institute for conversions to Islam.

The reedy 70-year-old brandishes an embellished cane. A red-and-white keffeiyah perched on his shoulder offers people a hint to his theological leanings.

As he speaks to The Express Tribune, his arm slices an invisible arc through the air. He is gesturing to a vast expanse of nine acres of donated land where converts are invited to pitch a tent and stay. “My heartfelt wish is that the entire world becomes Muslim,” comes his response, when asked about the en masse conversions. His piety is matched only by its ambition.

But contrary to the grandiose proclamation, this preacher isn’t a repository of rehearsed sound bites. It is only after he settles down on a charpoy that he deigns to embark on the journey of a Hindu named Jhangli who became an expert in evangelism.

“I always loved Islam,” he begins. “I read the Holy Quran and realised that 360 gods were not of any use to me.”

At first he had to study the Holy Quran in secret. There was the risk of being misunderstood if a Muslim caught him with the holy book. He started fasting and in fact he would begin a day before Ramazan started.

Shaikh’s mother grew alarmed at her son’s forays into another faith. She thought that if she married him off, he would not ‘leave’. Thus, he was barely 15 when his wedding took place, followed by a quick overtaking by nature – four girls and eight boys.

But despite this, he was drawn back to his curiosity and managed to find a teacher, Sain Mohammad Jagsi, who instructed him in the Holy Quran and Hadiths or sayings of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).

Fortunately, Shaikh’s uncle was of the same mind and the two men agreed that they would give each other the strength. Shaikh held off until his daughter was married to a Hindu as planned, since he had already “given his word”. Then there was no turning back.

After his conversion, Deen Mohammad Shaikh made it his mission to woo others. He began in his own backyard, preaching to family, before venturing beyond this comfort zone. Encounters with the rich and powerful helped pave the way. Retired Pakistan Army general Sikandar Hayat, who owns a sugar mill in Matli, offered Shaikh money, which he turned down. Instead, he urged Hayat to give jobs to some of the new converts. Hayat and his daughter proved extremely helpful in providing assistance.

Now, Shaikh says, his fame has spread and people come to him from as far as Balochistan, members of all religions and sects, who would like to convert. A small mosque has sprung up in his residential compound along with a number of rooms where children – mostly girls – are taught how to say their prayers and recite the Holy Quran.

One of the teachers is 14-year-old Sakina, who is just 15 days into the job. “Only a few students are difficult to teach,” she says while commenting on their ability to recite a text in an unknown language.

Shaikh is aware of the difficulties converts face while taking on what appear to be the initially daunting rigours of a brand new system. He makes life easy for the first 40 days. “They only have to pray farz!” he says while referring to the mandatory parts. This relaxed schedule ensures that they can ‘confirm their faith’. He understands that if he demanded they start out with praying five times a day to offer even the optional and ‘bonus’ parts, “They would run away!” as he puts it with a look of mock horror on his face.

Other than this, he is reluctant to actually explain how he influences the people. All he offers is a nugget of fire and brimstone: “I tell them that I was a Hindu too and that they would burn in Hell if they are not Muslim.”

More than saving a soul

There are other practical considerations that accompany conversions. In order to ‘save’ the converts from influential Hindus in other districts, Shaikh packs them off to Hub Chowk while the Kalima is still moist on their lips. “Their families would beat them up (for converting) otherwise,” he explains.

This trick of the ‘trade’ he learnt from personal experience. He alleges that he was kidnapped along with his daughter-in-law by influential Hindus who threatened him so that he would stop converting people. “They don’t want these poor Hindus to stand up to them when they become Muslims,” Shaikh maintains.

Despite 108,000 conversions, for which a record is kept, Shaikh still doesn’t feel his work is done. He wants everyone to be a Muslim and learn from his example. He also attends the Tablighi Jamaat’s annual congregation in Raiwind, although he doesn’t believe in sectarian divisions. “All groups are like brothers to me,” he declares.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd,  2012.

 

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Hindus, minorities

 

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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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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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Pakistan: Silence has become the mother of all blasphemies


Mohammed Hanif, Guardian

Two months ago, after Governor Salmaan Taseer’s murder and the jubilant support for the policeman who killed him, religious scholars in Pakistan told us that since common people don’t know enough about religion they should leave it to those who do – basically anyone with a beard.

Everyone thought it made a cruel kind of sense. So everyone decided to shut up: the Pakistan Peoples party (PPP) government because it wanted to cling to power, liberals in the media because they didn’t want to be the next Taseer. The move to amend the blasphemy law was shelved.

It was an unprecedented victory for Pakistan’s mullah minority. They had told a very noisy and diverse people to shut up and they heard back nothing but silence. After Pakistan’s only Christian federal minister, Shahbaz Bhatti – the bravest man in Islamabad – was murdered on Tuesday, they were back on TV, this time condemning the killing, claiming it was a conspiracy against them, against Islam and against Pakistan. The same folk who had celebrated one murder and told us how not to get murdered were wallowing in self pity.

In a very short span of time, Pakistan’s mullahs and muftis have managed to blur the line between what God says and what they say. The blasphemy law debate was about how to prosecute people who have committed blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an. Since repeating a blasphemy, even if it is to prove the crime in a court of law, is blasphemous, no Pakistani has a clear idea what constitutes blasphemy. Taseer had called the blasphemy law “a black law” and was declared a blasphemer. The line between maligning the Holy Prophet and questioning a law made by a bunch of mullahs was done away with. What would come next?

During the last two months sar tan se juda (off with their heads) has become as familiar a slogan as all the corporate songs about the Cricket World Cup. Banners appeared all over Karachi and Islamabad last week demanding death for a Pakistani writer. The only problem is that nobody quite knows what she has written. Her last book came out more than eight years ago and, if it wasn’t so scary, it would be ironic that it is called Blasphemy. It was a potboiler set mostly in religious and spiritual leaders’ bedrooms. The banners condemning her say that not only she has insulted the prophet, she has insulted religious scholars.

So now disagreeing with anyone who has a beard and armed bodyguards can get you killed. The PPP government has tried to appease this lot by silencing the one-and-a-half liberal voices it had. What it didn’t realise is that you can’t really appease people who insist their word is God’s word, their honour as sacred as the Holy Prophet’s. In Pakistan, silence is the mother of all blasphemies. Most Pakistanis are committing that blasphemy and being punished for it.

Mohammed Hanif is a journalist and author of the novel A Case of Exploding Mangoes

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Persecution of minorities


Dawn, Shada Islam

SO it has come to this. Reading about Sherry Rehman’s decision to drop her attempt to amend Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, I had three quick thoughts.

First, hats off to a very brave woman. Second, shame on a government and country which cannot protect its minorities from human rights abuses, violence and extremism. Third, forget criticism from Pakistan and other Muslim countries of so-called ‘Islamophobia’ in Europe and America: people in glass houses should not throw stones at others.

Being part of a minority is not easy in any part of the world. History is replete with horrifying examples of persecution of minorities, from the Inquisition to the Holocaust to the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Rwanda. But I never expected the country I was born in to turn into this sad land of intolerance and ignorance.

Growing up in Pakistan all those years ago, I was taught that the constitution protected Muslims and that the white strip on the Pakistan flag represented Pakistan’s minorities. We lived in a vibrant, diverse multi-cultural community. Like many women my age, I was taught by Christian teachers, brought up by Hindu ayahs and learned ballet from exquisite Parsi ballet dancers. But times have changed, tolerance and accommodation, the concept of ‘live and let live’ have given way to persecution and discrimination.

Pakistan is not alone in treating its minorities as second-class citizens. Across the Muslim world today, being a Christian means at best being subject to hostility and discrimination and in the worst case, facing the death sentence. What I find particularly galling is that the countries — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan for example — which mete out the harshest treatment to their Christian communities are the most vocal when it comes to denouncing ‘Islamophobia’ in Europe and the US. Frankly, I am getting fed up with such accusations.

Having kept a very close eye on Europe’s 20 million-strong Muslim communities over the last 10 years, I can safely say: yes, it has been a challenging decade for European Muslims but most would agree that it is better to be a Muslim in Europe than a Christian (or a Hindu) in a Muslim country.

There is no doubt that the 9/11 terrorist attacks, followed by the publication of caricatures of the Prophet (PBUH) by several European newspapers, the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, as well as subsequent real and suspected terrorist activity in Europe, have resulted in increased suspicion, surveillance and stigmatisation of Europe’s Muslim communities.

Most European governments have enacted tough new anti-terrorist legislation. Populist parties, using a simple anti-foreigner/anti-Islam rhetoric, have gained more influence and power in many EU countries. Mainstream politicians have adopted an equally strident anti-Islam and anti-Muslim narrative to win votes and improve their ratings in opinion polls.

The discussion on integration has been further muddied by rising European concerns about the arrival of refugees and asylum-seekers. In the process, journalistic ethics have suffered, with few journalists ready to challenge prejudice, clichés and misleading reports. Undoubtedly, Europe’s commitment to core values, including human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of religion, has taken a blow.

In addition, Europe’s post 9/11 attitudes towards Islam are linked to security concerns and fears of radicalisation of the continent’s Muslims but also reflect uncertainty about European identity. Making matters worse, an uncertain economic climate in many European countries as well as the presence of weak leaders unable to ease public anxieties about globalisation and unemployment have made it easier for populist politicians to spread a simple albeit toxic xenophobic message: the West is headed for a clash with Islam and Muslims.

However, this is only part of the story. Despite the anxiety about the visible presence of Islam and Muslims in the public space, the last 10 years have also been marked by transition and change in the lives of European Muslims.

The spotlight on European Muslims has had a positive effect by helping Muslims and host communities confront difficult issues of integration and multiple identities which had been neglected and overlooked over decades.

Governments are slowly combining a security-focused prism with a more balanced approach which includes an integration agenda and Muslim outreach programmes. Government and business recruitment policies are being changed gradually to increase the employment of Muslims and minorities. Business leaders are demanding an increase in immigration, including from Muslim countries, to meet Europe’s skills shortage. The EU has adopted a new anti-discrimination directive in the new Lisbon Treaty which strengthens existing rules on combating racism.

Significantly, European Muslims are becoming more active in demanding equal rights as full-fledged citizens, organising themselves into pressure groups, and emerging as influential politicians, entrepreneurs and cultural and sports icons. Ten years after 9/11, the challenge for European governments and European Muslims is to hammer out a fresh narrative which looks at European Muslims as active and full-fledged citizens rather than as exotic foreigners.

Despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comments on the failure of multiculturalism in Europe, the continent today is a vibrant mix of people, cultures and religions. Integration and mainstreaming is taking place and there is slow but steady recognition that all Europeans, whatever their religion, ethnic origins and cultural background, share a common space.

More time and hard work will be needed before Europeans elect their own Barack Obama and readily embrace and celebrate diversity. But work on such a goal has begun.

My advice to Muslim governments is simple: stop ranting against the West, take a few lessons in citizenship and minority rights from Europe and America and start listening to all your citizens, not just the small number of extremists which carry guns.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Brussels.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2011 in Ahmadis, Blasphemy, Christians, minorities

 

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Pakistan can be the next Golgotha


By Khaled Ahmed
The Friday Times (TFT)

We are trapped in our own scheming in the name of Islam. Blasphemy Law is biting the state and the government can do nothing. An illiterate dirt-poor Asiya Bibi is to die for all of us devotees of the faith. The world is begging us to do something. The Pope has appealed only to get an unworthy repartee from our bearded firebrands. The government is now hamstrung.

The President won’t pardon her because he can’t challenge the clout of the clergy at its strongest at the present moment; he has just signed on the appointment of a harsh cleric to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII). A moderate CII former member Javed Ghamidi is on the run from Islamic terrorists as he criticises the bad law that hands down death for blasphemy without the normal criteria of justice, such as intent and level of consciousness.

Poisoning of national language: You can still write sanely in English but not in Urdu, so poisoned is the national tongue even as experts opine that true learning is only possible in one’s own language. Iftikhar Murshid writing in The News (28 Nov 2010) says: ‘Blasphemy laws have existed in British India since 1860. In 1927, Article 295 was added to the Penal Code under which “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religious belief” became a culpable offence.

‘The law was non-discriminatory and conviction under its provisions depended exclusively on conclusive evidence, as a consequence of which there were only ten blasphemy cases in the 58 years between 1927 and 1985. Since that year the number of blasphemy cases has soared to more than 4,000. In 1982, Gen Ziaul Haq introduced Section 295-B in the Penal Code of Pakistan, under which “defiling the Holy Quran” became punishable by life imprisonment. In 1986, Section 295-C was added, mandating capital punishment for “use of derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet”. Even the law minister at the time did not support the bill when it was introduced in the National Assembly “on the ground that the Quran did not prescribe a penalty for this offence”.

Liberals on the run: The enactment of Ziaul Haq’s blasphemy laws unleashed a reign of terror in which the impoverished Christian community suffered the most. The violence will continue till these draconian laws are repealed. This is unlikely, however, because the present law minister, Babar Awan, was quoted by the print media on Nov 26 as saying that ‘no one can change the blasphemy laws’. Thus, so-called liberal politicians have been just as responsible as semi-educated clerics for the distortion of the laws of Islam in pursuit of their respective political agendas’.

Huma Yusuf researching a book in Washington thinks Pakistan was ‘on the brink’ as it faced the endgame in Afghanistan. The extremism within was damaging Pakistan’s chances of implementing a credible strategy. Writing in Dawn (28 Nov 2010) she said: ‘The government has made little headway in its efforts to change the climate of xenophobia and intolerance in Pakistani society. No doubt, the right noises have been made: Zardari’s government is the first to appoint a minister for minorities; it also established the Sufi Advisory Council and the Sindh Education Department is now launching an International University of Sufism at Bhit Shah. But all this signifies little in real terms’.

For Asiya no asylum either: The PPP government has backed off from any consideration of repealing the law; it will back down also on the question of pardon. What is more, it will find it difficult to send Asiya Bibi into asylum in the West. (Times are different from when Salamat Masih was exiled even though the judge who had favoured him at the High Court was later assassinated.) The other side is just too strong; and the opposition doesn’t care that it will have very little valid ground to stand if it comes to power after the PPP.

Everybody is in a frenzy of toppling and the only party that is winning is Al Qaeda. The PPP will go along with the aroused clergy and let the victims of blasphemy law down. Asiya Bibi will either have to die to save all of us from the wrath of the mullah or she will rot in jail indefinitely as she has already done for over a year. Let us have a taste of what has appeared in the Urdu press where the battle in favour of the evil law is being fought.

Lawyers and clergy join hands: Leader of JUIF Dr Atiqur Rehman told Express (23 Nov 2010) that the entire world had laws punishing blasphemy, but he did not say whether the entire world gave death as the minimum punishment for blasphemy. Christian Minorities Minister Shehbaz Bhatti said that Blasphemy Law was being misused to persecute non-Muslims. Cleric Afzal Qadri said Blasphemy Law was abused the same way as the Murder Law but no one protested against the latter law. Wukla persons protest against Asiya Bibi: Reported in Jinnah (23 Nov 2010) the lawyers of Nankana Sahib and Sangla Hill came out to protest against the granting of pardon to Asiya Bibi and said that such a pardon would be contempt of court. They said the court should take notice of efforts to smuggle Asiya Bibi abroad.

Shujaat against Asiya’s pardon: Reported in Jang (24 Nov 2010) Chaudhry Shujaat of PMLQ – always the first to bend the knee to tumescent clergy – said that pardon given to the Blasphemy Law victim Asiya Bibi would be wrong and would entail violent reaction. JUI wants Asiya hanged? Reported in Jinnah (24 Nov 2010) coalition partner of PPP the JUIF said that Asiya Bibi should be allowed to face whatever punishment the courts hand down to her and that there should be no pardon. It supported death sentence for blasphemy and asked the government to pay more attention to drone attacks. It said it will physically resist any pardon.

Rana Sanaullah in the breach as always: Daily Jinnah (24 Nov 2010) reported that religious parties in Sheikhupura in Punjab came out in strength supporting the death sentence of Asiya Bibi blocking all roads and causing traffic jams and saying that they will not allow pardon to her and will react to sending her out of the country for asylum. Rana Sanaullah for Asiya death: Law minister of Punjab Rana Sanaullah was quoted by Jinnah (24 Nov 2010) as saying that he was in agreement with the punishment meted out to Asiya Bibi under Penal Code Section 295C and that Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer was acting like a spoiled child (bigra batcha) by supporting her and trying to win a pardon for her. He said by doing dalassa (compassion) to Asiya he was causing a Muslim-Christian conflict (fasad).

Cities rise against Asiya’s asylum: Daily Jinnah (24 Nov 2010) reported that a number of cities staged protests against the alleged shifting of Asiya from Sheikhupura jail to Islamabad before sending her away to the US to avoid her being hanged under orders from a sessions judge. The processions were arranged by power religious organisations such as Tehreek Hurmat Rasul, Sunni action and Sunni Ittehad Council. Friday was named as the grand protest day against Asiya’s asylum.

Famous columnist Hamid Mir wrote to say that Afiya had confessed to blasphemy and now had to face the music. But some years ago he was less quiescent, which is a measure of how extremist Pakistan had become. He had written in Jang (26 June 2006) that the PPP’s imprisoned leader Yusuf Raza Gilani had stated in his book that when in 1990 Nawaz Sharif became prime minister and wanted to change the Blasphemy Law but Ms Bhutto in the opposition did not help him in parliament. Still later Ms Bhutto returned to power in 1993 and wanted to change the Blasphemy Law but this time Nawaz Sharif did not help her.

That kind of a game is still on.

Pakistan bride, Osama bin Laden bridegroom: Pakistan will not stop having death wishes. Usually nations on their way down have a single death wish. Pakistan has many. It wants the Qadianis killed and wants to use blasphemy to hang them but is netting others instead. It is like a fisherman who will kill other fish to get at the one he wants. Christians as a community are threatened after we in our stupidity have broadened the net of blasphemy by including all prophets. Since the Bible has stories of Prophets that Muslims consider insulting – Noah, David and Solomon get a raw deal – the entire Christian community led by the bishops might have to be hanged collectively. Pakistan may the next Golgotha.

So be it, because most of us will die anyway after Al Qaeda takes over. Pakistan is a bride in her conjugal chamber waiting to be ravished by Osama bin Laden. We got Pakistan from Jinnah and are now ready to hand it over to the minions of bin Laden. What gives me just a shred of satisfaction as I ready myself to die as a secular person is the fact that all Barelvis who are now baying for the blood of a poor Christian woman will be disembowelled by the ‘superior’ Muslim followers of Al Qaeda and made to hang in the various squares of Pakistan. We have had the foretaste of it in Swat and elsewhere in the Tribal Areas.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2010 in Blasphemy, Christians

 

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