Tag Archive: Islam


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.”

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Now things are becoming clearer and more understandable. We should forgive those journalists, TV anchors and political leaders who support or avoid opposing and condemning extremists. They have a very genuine reason to live in hypocrisy. Someone who dared to oppose extremism, had to pay the price with his own life; a price for being forthright, honest, bold and outspoken. In spite of his failings and weaknesses as a human, he went down fighting a menace Pakistan has created itself. Punjab’s slain governor Salman Taseer had refused to accept that Pakistani society is no more a society of rational people; it is a jungle where you have to accept the command of those capable of killing. You must bow down to them or get perished. Period. The world is in shock at the gory incident but it fails to understand the fact that the act is being glorified by those elements who claim to profess a religion of peace. This is the most disgusting thing, more than the murder itself. And look at the attitude of the lawyers, the so-called custodians of “rule of law” who kissed and garlanded the accused when he was brought to the court. These are all very disturbing signs. Even Islam would not condone this attitude of showing disrespect to the due process of law.

It is not important that Governor Taseer was a politician and that he was killed at a point in time when his party’s government at the Center was facing worst ever crisis of its survival. The most important thing is that we have come to a pass where you cannot question a menace, particularly the one which was created to please a more dangerous menace, the clergy. The world which was worried about Pakistan’s political crisis is now in shock and unable to think what will happen next. The New York Times says that the assassination of an outspoken secular politician by one of his elite police guards on Tuesday plunged the government deeper into political crisis and highlighted the threat of militant infiltration even within the nation’s security forces.

The killing of Salman Taseer, the prominent governor of Punjab Province, was another grim reminder of the risks that Pakistani leaders take to oppose religious extremists, at a time when the United States is pushing Pakistan for greater cooperation in the war in Afghanistan by cracking down on militant groups like the Taliban.

Mr. Taseer, recently took up a campaign to repeal Pakistan’s contentious blasphemy laws, which were passed under General Zia as a way to promote Islam and unite the country. The laws have been misused to convict minority Pakistanis as the Islamic forces unleashed by the general have gathered strength. The laws prescribe a mandatory death sentence for anyone convicted of insulting Islam.

Religious parties staged vigorous demonstrations of thousands of people across the country last weekend to protest the campaign by Mr. Taseer, even burning him in effigy. Mr. Taseer countered in comments on his Twitter account and elsewhere.

“Religious right trying to pressurize from the street their support of blasphemy laws. Point is it must be decided in Parliament not on the road,” he wrote on Dec. 26 in the imperfect shorthand typical of such posts.

“I was under huge pressure to cow down before rightist’s pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing,” he posted on Dec. 31.

Mr. Taseer’s death will serve as a chilling warning to any politician who speaks out against the religious parties and their agenda and will certainly end immediate attempts to amend the blasphemy laws.

The paper also reports that Obama administration officials worry that even if Pakistan’s government survives the upheaval — which they believe it might, for a while — the turmoil could kill any chance for political and economic reforms. The assassination, one official said, leaves not only the repeal of the blasphemy laws in doubt, but also possible reforms to increase tax collection. Under pressure from Secretary of State and other American officials, the Pakistani government submitted a new tax law in Parliament. But it may abandon the push as a way to lure back coalition partners.

The infamous Blasphemy Law introduced by Zia in his attempts to appease the clergy and perpetuate his rule, has become center of attention once again. It is being used to defame Pakistan and pressurize the West to stop helping Pakistan. Ever since passage of this law, the reported incidents of blasphemy have increased. These incidents are being blown up to give a message that minorities in Pakistan, and particularly the Christians, have contempt for the religion of Islam and its Prophet.It gives an impression that the law itself incites blasphemy.

Fact of the matter is that prosecution under this law does not take the due process as in case of other offenses with the result that chances of its misuse for settling personal vendetta have increased manifold. Human rights organizations have demanded its repeal whereas conservative religious elements who rule the roost in Pakistan are not prepared to let anyone talk about, let alone revise it. There is a general perception that the accused woman is innocent and has been accused to teach her a lesson. Her clemency appeal is being processed for Zardari’s approval and there are chances that she would be granted pardon and let off the hook. Once freed, she would be worried for her safety unless she is granted asylum in one of the countries abroad.

According to Washington Post, the sentence against Asia Bibi has called new attention to Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which critics say is used to persecute minorities, fan religious extremism and settle personal vendettas. Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five, has already spent 1 1/2 years in jail. A court sentenced her Nov. 8 to hang after convicting her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. She says she was falsely accused by a group of village Muslim women angry with her after a dispute over whether they could share the same water bowl.

Pope Benedict XVI appealed last week for her release, and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has asked for a review of the facts of the case, raising the possibility of a presidential pardon. Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, who is preparing the report for Zardari, said his preliminary investigations indicate that Bibi was wrongly accused.

“I am convinced that she is innocent and she was wrongly sentenced to death,” Bhatti said.

A provincial official delivered a petition from Bibi for clemency to the president’s office on Monday, Bhatti said. He said he will submit his own report to Zardari on Wednesday, and then the president will make a decision. “I am optimistic about her release,” he said.

Asia’s lawyer has filed an appeal with a higher court in the southern city of Lahore, but she could be freed by a presidential pardon at any time. Pakistan’s Christians, who make up less than 5 percent of the Muslim-majority country‘s 175 million people, are frequently the targets of accusers invoking the law, Bhatti said.

Saudi Arabia is rightfully a citadel of conservative and fundamentalist Islam. It has remained under the yoke of a form of the government, a system of monarchy not really sanctioned in Islam. So strong was the hold of autocracy and its own brand of religion that the word “nation” was a taboo, always treated like a four-lettered word. Equally sinful was the desire to identify oneself with a nation. However, it is now waking up to the societal need of every social animal i.e. nationalism or a national identity. The religion in the kingdom is normally used, and clergy pampered, to provide fabricated and doctored justifications for perpetuation of hereditary kingship, even in the 21st century.

Pampering of the clergy is manifest in many shapes, most notably in their powers of policing in herding and forcing people to mosques at prayer times. Incidentally, the most appealing message of the religion of Islam for people of those times 1400 plus years ago was not the five-times prayers but elimination of two worst instruments of human exploitation namely, clergy and the autocracy. These two mutually supporting instruments are being perpetuated in Saudi Arabia in the name of Islam. The kingdom was a province of the Ottoman Empire and was plucked out to serve imperial designs of Britain as aptly explained in the memoirs of “Lawrence of Arabia”.

It, however, seems that a change is in the air which can easily be felt by those visiting the kingdom. The feelings for religion are making space for feeling for the nation-hood. Foreign Policy Magazine has reported a rare spectacle this September when thousands of young men spilled onto gridlocked arteries from Riyadh to Khobar to commemorate National Day. Similar displays of patriotic fervor pass without notice in many countries around the world. But in a kingdom renowned for the austerity of its conservative religious movement, even a simple festival can be symptomatic of dramatic changes in the structure of society.

For decades, any celebration of the 1932 unification of the kingdom was widely interpreted as an affront to Islam. Powerful Saudi clerics conspired to treat tributary holidays, outside the two religious festivals of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as heresy. For this same conservative clergy to ignore elaborate, state-sponsored celebrations and National Day-themed Theater (in a country that does not allow cinemas) suggests that the balance of power between the House of al-Sa’ud and the House of Ibn Wahhab may be tipping in favor of the monarchy.

The current socio-political system in Saudi Arabia dates to the establishment of the kingdom by Abdul Aziz al-Sa’ud (Ibn Sa’ud). The expansion of al-Sa’ud’s power base beyond the central portion of the kingdom in Najd depended heavily on a group of desert warriors known as the Ikhwan, who had embraced the call to arms of al-Sa’ud’s then-ally and puritanical religious revivalist Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. The same 1744 pact governing this alliance between religious and temporal power persists to this day through the clerical legitimization of the rule of the House of al-Sa’ud, and the reciprocal guarantee of the Islamic character of the state.

Under this arrangement, the descendants of al-Wahhab — the al-Shaikh family — exercise ultimate control over the judiciary, education and religious hierarchy through key positions including that of Justice Minister and Grand Mufti. Dynastic succession in the 5,000-man strong royal family is similarly restricted to the direct descendants of Ibn Sa’ud, who dominate political life in the country to an extent that is virtually unparalleled in the contemporary world.

The alliance provides the royal family with leverage to perfect the practice of co-option through intermarriage, the allocation of oil wealth and appointments to positions of power. As a result, the kingdom’s senior Wahhabi clergy, including the top cleric and highest religious authority, have been subordinated to the political order and are expected to ratify and justify regime policies.

The impact of this arrangement on the legitimacy of the official religious establishment has fluctuated over time, but state-appointed clerics continue to enjoy tremendous power in schools, universities, mosques and state-controlled radio and television.

This is perhaps doubly true of the kingdom’s “unofficial” clerics and religious figures aligned with the fragmented Islamic awakening movement (sahwa). Members of this disparate group — made up of both moderates close to the reformist lobby and hardliners who provide moral succor to violent dissidents — share the social conservatism of their official counterparts, but derive their influence from their popular following and their willingness to openly challenge the regime. The most prominent among them rose to power in the 1990’s by channeling popular anger toward official clerics who had legitimized the presence of American troops on Saudi soil.

Many of these same independent and politically motivated conservative clerics today oppose King Abdullah‘s education and justice reform agenda, issuing hundreds of internet fatwas to derail modernization efforts. A royal response issued in August 2010, by way of decree, limited the authority to issue religious edicts to approved members of a 20-cleric Senior Scholars Authority and an affiliated committee.

The seemingly long-delayed decision to insulate the citizenry — and the royal agenda — from the influence of more extreme elements within the independent clergy, can actually be traced back to the early part of this decade. Following al Qaeda‘s attacks on the kingdom in 2003 and 2004, the king encouraged nationalist sentiment by promoting patriotism (watania) as a stand-alone subject in the academic curriculum.

With the exception of a joint statement issued by 156 scholars expressing outrage at the perceived replacement of religious based loyalty with Saudi nationalism, the clerical establishment remained surprisingly quiet. Their acquiescence paved the way for King Abdullah to sanction National Day as an official holiday in one of the first decrees he issued upon coming to power in 2005. In every year since, preparations have been more elaborate, and celebrations more colorful, than the year before. Please also click: forbidden luxury