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Islam Shot Down for Opposing the Religious Right

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by spnadmin, Jan 6, 2011.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    The killing of a moderate Pakistani governor is a blow to minorities.

    THE death of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, has brought Pakistan to the forefront of world affairs in a way that 20 million displaced Pakistani flood victims could not.

    In August, Taseer told the BBC of the need for urgent international aid to reach flood victims in his state after some $2 billion to $3 billion worth of crops were destroyed, including 260,000 hectares of cotton and rice, maize and other cash crops. Taseer warned that the floods had hit some of the most poverty stricken areas of rural Punjab, which he described as "a breeding ground for potential recruitment" by religious extremists. International aid was important, he said, because ''this is the kind of nest which can grow the vipers".

    Ironically, this extremism was Taseer's undoing. He was shot by a member of his own security detail. The assassin reportedly told investigators that he killed Taseer due to the politician's opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

    Taseer was a complex political figure. His political mentor was the father of Benazir Bhutto, who was executed after a show trial conducted by a US-backed military dictator. Years later, Taseer served as a minister in a caretaker government appointed by another US-backed military dictator. General Pervez Musharraf, who many Pakistanis not-so-affectionately label as "Busharraf", appointed Taseer as governor of Punjab in 2008.

    Many Western observers describe Taseer as "a liberal politician". In a sense, he was more liberal than other members of Pakistan's wealthy elite.

    He belonged to the ruling Pakistan People's Party of the late Benazir Bhutto. He opposed various religiously inspired provisions of the Pakistan Criminal Code that entered the statute books during Bhutto's reign and which she did not oppose to gain support from religious parties.

    These provisions included laws that made it an offence to engage in acts deemed blasphemous. The laws typically were used against members of Pakistan's religious minorities.

    Among the most vulnerable minorities are the Sikhs. Before Pakistan was carved out of colonial India in 1947, Punjab was a land where followers of many faiths flourished. Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, emerged from this area. Punjab is the final resting place to numerous Sufi Muslim saints, and was also where any number of less orthodox Muslim sects were born.

    Partition saw a splitting of Punjabi society. Millions of Sikhs and Hindus rushed in one direction to the Indian side of the border, while millions of Muslims rushed in the other direction. A million people of all faiths lost their lives.

    One Sikh who managed to escape was Amarjit Singh who was to become a brigadier in the Indian army. Amarjit's daughter Tavleen Singh became a respected Indian journalist. In 1980, she had an affair with Taseer and they had a son named Aatish, who was reared in his mother's Sikh household in Delhi.

    In his 2009 book Stranger to History: A Son's Journey Through Islamic Lands, Aatish Taseer writes that his father's version of Islam was less about religious observance and more a kind of pan-Muslim nationalism.

    Certainly, Salman Taseer preferred to keep his relationship with an Indian Sikh journalist and his illegitimate child secret given the effects such a scandal would have on his political career.

    At the same time, he championed the rights of Christian and other minorities and openly took on the powerful religious parties that backed blasphemy laws.

    Over the years, these laws have been used to harass and victimise Pakistani Christians. Among them is Aasia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian mother of five from rural Punjab, currently in custody for alleged blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad. Her supporters claim that the allegations arose from personal disputes with other women in her village.

    Taseer and his daughters visited Aasia Bibi after she had been in custody for some 18 months. He described Aasia Bibi's punishment as "harsh and oppressive" and appealed to the Pakistani President for a pardon. Taseer also described the prosecution of poor members of religious minorities as a mockery of Pakistan's Islamic heritage.

    Few Pakistani politicians have had the courage to oppose such laws so openly and brazenly. Religious law has become a tool of state-sanctioned oppression of the most vulnerable of all faiths. Congregations of attention-seeking imams join forces with corrupt police to arrest and even kill alleged blasphemers on the flimsiest of evidence. Personal scores and commercial disputes are dealt with in this irrational manner.

    Pakistan's religious right, along with their supporters in the small business sector, had called for Taseer to be sacked. Pakistan's The News International reported that 100 activists from the Tehrik Tahaffuz-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwat (Movement for the Preservation of the Doctrine of Finality of Prophethood) rallied and cheered after Taseer's slaying. They carried placards and handed out sweets.

    On New Year's Eve, Taseer sent this message into Twitterspace: "I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I'm the last man standing". It remains to be seen whether any other politician will be brave enough to stand in the way of Pakistan's religious right.

    Irfan Yusuf is a lawyer and author of Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-fascist.

    http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/polit...osing-the-religious-right-20110105-19g9f.html
     
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  3. spnadmin

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  4. Archived_Member16

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    Javeed Sukhera: Primitive blasphemy laws a curse on Pakistan

    [​IMG]

    Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
    Supporters of slain governor of Punjab Salman Taseer hold a candlelight vigil.

    National Post - January 5, 2011 – 1:27 pm

    With the summer sun bearing down on the agricultural heartland of Pakistan, farm worker Asia Bibi dipped her cup into a communal water bucket to quench her thirst. According to various accounts, an argument immediately ensued as Bibi, a Christian, was accused by her peers of making the water impure. As she rose to her defense, Bibi was accused again of blaspheming Islam and insulting its prophet. After 18th long months in prison, she was sentenced to death by a district court judge who based his conviction on hearsay.

    But her story did not end there. The world now grieves the recent assassination of Salman Taseer, the Governor of the Pakistani Province of Punjab. Mr. Taseer spoke out against the injustice that was being perpetrated against Bibi and raised important questions regarding the place of the blasphemy laws within modern Pakistan. The debate regarding the laws played out in the streets over several days prior to his assassination with extremist parties stoking the emotional flames of their constituency and inevitably and inarguably, contributing to Mr. Taseer’s murder by one of his own bodyguards, who accused him of being an enemy of Islam.

    Condemned by scripture in all three Abrahamic faiths, the act of blasphemy has long been exploited to justify persecution of minorities. While many nations have current blasphemy laws, punishment mostly ranges from imprisonment to fines. In the Netherlands the law came into effect in the 1930′s as a reaction to the Communist party’s call for Christmas to be excluded from the state’s list of holidays. In the UK as recently as 2007, a Christian group sought to prosecute the British Broadcasting Corporation over a television program that depicted Jesus dressed as a baby.

    In the Muslim world, blasphemy laws were invoked in the fatwa against author Salman Rushdie in 1989. In Pakistan, the laws are a vestige of the extremist ordinances established by former ruler Zia-ul-Haq. Despite their existence for several decades, the Bibi case was the first where an individual charged with blasphemy was sentenced to death. In order for the sentence to be carried out, a higher court would be required to uphold it.

    A large number of Pakistanis across the globe are not only embarrassed by the primitive justice that prevails in rural Pakistan, but also find themselves on the defensive when they read accounts of the blasphemy laws in the mainstream media. Indeed, missing from most widely read accounts of Bibi’s case and the depiction of the Pakistani nation is mention that the state was founded with minority rights explicitly protected under certain provisions of the constitution. Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah stated to the state’s minorities in 1947, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

    The battle over the blasphemy laws represents the daily battle for the soul of a nation. Over the past several years, Pakistan has deteriorated into a volatile state where its citizenry are subjected to constant threats. Rarely a month goes by where the vibrancy of Pakistani life is not diminished by school and business closings, power outages and police checkpoints.

    Yet in the fallout from the assassination, the current government of Pakistan remains unclear in its intentions. Numerous officials state that the repeal of the laws is not a viable political option and instead propose perpetuating the status quo by re-examining the concept of “proper implementation.”

    Unfortunately, in their current form, the laws are written in vague and non-specific language. They permit prosecution for any form of disrespect including “indirect innuendo” against Islam or its prophet. The laws and the current state of sharia courts in rural Pakistan have not only fomented discrimination against minorities, but also unjust treatment of many Pakistani Muslims. Therefore, in their current state, nothing short of repeal would be sufficient. Now, more than ever, Pakistanis across the globe must speak up against injustice and push their politicians to reclaim the Pakistan that its founder intended to create.

    National Post

    Javeed Sukhera is a doctor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

    source:
    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/01/05/javeed-sukhera-primitive-blasphemy-laws-a-curse-on-pakistan/
     
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