Tag Archive: Blasphemy

Who gave them license to kill?

Historical evidence suggests that the societies which lag behind in development, due mainly to wide-spread ignorance, are more susceptible to be attracted to self-appointed agents of God. These agents dictate illiterate minds and create an atmosphere of cheap passions in order to thrive on it. The same thing is happening these days on the issue of blasphemy. The offense of blasphemy is punishable under the law but the justice requires that before condemning anybody to the sentence of death, the requirement of due process of law should be fulfilled. However, those who have their own axe to grind do not let the law take its course. and announce the conviction and the punishment making it impossible for the courts to discharge their function. They glorify the criminal acts in the name of the faith in the same way the extremists try to justify their acts of mass murder of the hapless civilians.

Moreover, no one other than a certified and qualified mufti can interpret religion under the teachings of Islam and issue religious decree but it seems that in the highly polarized society of Pakistan, every Tom, Dick and Harry has assumed the role of a mufti and has started inciting murder.  It sounds as if these self-appointed muftis have acquired the license to kill anyone by declaring people infidel. According to news outlets, several clerics in Pakistan have issued fatwas against former Pakistani minister Sherry Rehman and declared her an infidel for calling for changes in the blasphemy law, prompting civil society activists to register a complaint with police.

Media reports said the imam of Sultan Masjid, one of Karachi’s biggest mosques, declared Rehman a ‘kaafir‘ [infidel] and ‘wajib-ul-qatl‘ [must be killed] while delivering a sermon after the Friday prayers on January 7, 2011. The mosque has close ties to the Saudi Arabian government and Wahhabis. Islamic fanatics who organized a massive rally in Karachi on January 11 also issued a pamphlet that named Sherry Rehman as a person who “has invoked the religious honor of Pakistan’s Muslims” for calling for changes in the blasphemy law. The threats came days after a police guard gunned down Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer for criticising the blasphemy law.

Following this fatwa, civil society activists in Pakistan filed a complaint against the imam of Sultan Masjid at the Darakhsan police station in Karachi. The complaint was registered on behalf of Sherry Rehman, a senior leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, Salmaan Taseer’s son Shaan Taseer and journalist Ali Chishti. In the complaint, the civil society activists alleged that the imam of Sultan Masjid had also lauded Mumtaz Qadri, the policeman who assassinated Salmaan Taseer. Chishti told the media that civil society groups feared for Sherry’s life following the murder of the Punjab Governor. The civil society activists said they were proud to be Muslims but rejected murdering people in the name of Islam.

Some political analysts are comparing today’s Pakistan with Taliban ruled Afghanistan. As expected, the courageous Sherry Rehamn has told media that she wont leave the country following any such threat. She wants any rewritten version to shift the burden of proof from the accused, who she says frequently face prosecution witnesses who have “tailored their evidence on prejudice or malice.”nInstead, all blasphemy charges should automatically be tried by the high courts to prevent possible miscarriages of justice. The new law should include penalties for false accusations. The blasphemy law has become a political card radicals play to manipulate public opinion in a devout and “largely pacifist country.”

Please also read:

“Issuing fatwas is a mufti’s job and I am not one.”

In Realm of Religion, Women Lose Out

It was in 2006 that the most irresponsible act of blasphemy was committed by a religious person like Pope Benedict XVI when he made certain uncalled for and objectionable remarks against the person of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH). Although he had to cut a sorry figure after condemnation of his remarks, he has now again thrown caution to the wind and tried to provoke the sentiments of Muslims by demanding to scrap the law. According to media reports, Pope Benedict XVI on Monday called on Pakistan to scrap a blasphemy law after the murder of the governor of Punjab, saying the legislation was a pretext for “acts of injustice and violence”.

The Pope did not realize that all the rational people in Pakistan are mindful of the implications of the law but no one is demanding its outright repeal, all of them are peacefully struggling to improve the law and the procedure so that the extremists are deprived of the space to misuse it to target hapless minorities. In the present charged atmosphere, the demand of the Pope is like showing a red rag to the bull. It is also like adding fuel to fire and he has done disservice to the millions of Christians living in Pakistan’s society now sharply divided on religion.

The pope, who was speaking at a traditional New Year‘s meeting with foreign ambassadors to the Vatican, said the anti-blasphemy legislation was an example of “norms prejudicing the right to religious freedom.”

More than 50,000 people rallied in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi on Sunday against the controversial reform of the blasphemy law that was behind the shooting of Punjab governor Salman Taseer last week.

Taseer had called for reform of the blasphemy law that was recently used to sentence a Christian woman to death. But his outspoken liberal stance offended the country’s increasingly powerful conservative religious base.

Controversy over the law flared when former information minister Sherry Rehman tabled a bill in November calling for an end the death penalty for blasphemy, after Christian mother-of-five Asia Bibi was sentenced to hang.

It is widely believed that Salman Taseer was killed to punish him for raising voice against injustices meted out to members of hapless strata of the society, both Muslims and non-Muslims. Similar punishments were awarded previously to members of legal fraternity for representing blasphemy suspects. The problem with the offense of blasphemy in Pakistan is that the accused is convicted by the accuser and the society before the court passes any judgment. Then no judge can dare to acquit the accused.  With Taseer murder, Aasia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy has lost all the hopes of getting any justice from the courts or clemency from the President. According to media reports, she broke down in her prison cell and wept inconsolably when she learnt of the assassination of Salman Taseer, the liberal politician who had visited her in jail and demanded that she be pardoned.

“She kept crying throughout the day. She kept saying. ‘That man came here and he sacrificed his life for me’,” The Independent quoted a prison source, as saying.

“She said: ‘I know that everything that has happened is because of me. I know in my heart of hearts, that person came here for me and what I feel now, no one else can feel’,” the source added.

Aasia’s husband, Ashiq Masih, who is living in hiding, fearful for his life, echoed her grief, saying: “[When Salmaan Taseer visited], both of us felt very happy after the meeting and we were hopeful that she was going to be set free.”

“Now, the [Punjab] Governor has given his life. It’s a huge sacrifice,” he added.

Since she was first accused of blasphemy in 2009, Aasia has been held in an isolation unit within Sheikhpura prison. But after Taseer’s own bodyguard killed him on Tuesday, and Aasia’s case was subsequently thrust ever deeper into the public consciousness, a guard has been placed directly outside her 8ft by 10ft cell to provide additional, round-the-clock protection, the report said.
She is allowed out of cell No 2 for two hours a day to exercise, but is prevented from meeting or speaking with other prisoners, purportedly for her own well-being, it added.

“We just try and treat her like any other prisoner,” said prison superintendent, Khalid Sheikh.

Aasia’s husband, who has three other children from an earlier marriage, has supported his wife since her incarceration, moving his family to a single-room house located at little more than a mile from the jail. But within hours of Taseer’s assassination, and amid mounting concerns from other Christians about their own safety, Masih was forced to flee and go into hiding and use an assumed identity.

Speaking on mobile phone, he said that even if Aasia were cleared by the appeal process, they would no longer feel safe living in Pakistan.

“We are feeling very scared and we feel it will never be safe for us in Pakistan,” said Masih.

“I get my strength from Jesus Christ and I am hopeful that he is going to save my wife. But now the circumstances have changed. We will have to wait and see what happens,” he added. (ANI)