Tag Archive for 'Blasphemy'

The man who was burned for blasphemy

Nadeem F. Paracha at Dawn.blogs:

On Wednesday, 4th of July, a frenzied mob broke into a police station in Bahawalpur (South Punjab). The mob’s target was a ‘malang’ (vagabond), the sort that have been found in and around numerous shrines of Sufi saints in the sub-continent for centuries.

 The malang, whom many people of the area also described to be a man not very sound of mind, had been taken into custody by the area’s police after some people accused him of desecrating the sanctity of the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

So on Wednesday as the malang sat behind bars at a police lock-up and as most of the cops kept giving him sideways glances, cracking vague, pitying grins at the malang’s state of mind and habit of talking to himself, the mob surrounded the police station, demanding that the ‘blasphemer’ be handed over.

The cops refused, pleading that the case against the man shall be decided by the courts. As if already surprised that their fellow Muslims in uniforms hadn’t lynched the ‘blasphemer’ themselves, the mob thrust forward in an attempt to break into the police station.

A few cops rushed out with batons and teargas canisters trying to push the mob back that by now had grown to over a hundred enraged men with an audience of another hundred or so onlookers who, as usual, hang around such situations like silent, inanimate zombies. More:

Pakistan blocks Twitter over “blasphemous content”

[Update: Twitter access was restored after eight hours]

Reuters:

Pakistan on Sunday blocked access to Twitter in response to “blasphemous” material posted by users on the microblogging and social networking website, a senior government official said.

“This has been done under the directions of the Ministry of Information Technology. It’s because of blasphemous content,” said Mohammed Yaseen, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

“They (the ministry) have been discussing with them (Twitter) for some time now, requesting them to remove some particular content,” he said.

Pakistan blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and about 1,000 other websites for nearly two weeks in May 2010 over blasphemous content.

Any representation of the Prophet Mohammad is deemed un-Islamic and blasphemous by many Muslims, who constitute the overwhelming majority in Pakistan. More:

Remembering Salmaan Taseer

Pervez Hoodbhoy at The Express Tribune:

Governor Salmaan Taseer died at the hands of a religious fanatic on January 4 last year. Fearlessly championing a deeply unpopular cause, this brave man had sought to revisit the country’s blasphemy law which, as he saw it, was yet another means of intimidating Pakistan’s embattled religious minorities. This law — which is unique in having death as the minimum penalty — would have sent to the gallows an illiterate Christian peasant woman, Aasia Bibi, who stood accused by her Muslim neighbours after a noisy dispute. Taseer’s publicly-voiced concern for human life earned him 26 high-velocity bullets from one of his security guards, Malik Mumtaz Qadri. The other guards watched silently.

In this long, sad, year more has followed. Justice Pervez Ali Shah, the brave judge who ultimately sentenced Taseer’s murderer in spite of receiving death threats, has fled the country. Aasia Bibi is rotting away in jail, reportedly in solitary confinement and in acute psychological distress. Shahbaz Taseer, the governor’s son, was abducted in late August — presumably by Qadri’s sympathisers. He remains untraceable. Shahbaz Bhatti, another vocal voice against the blasphemy law, was assassinated weeks later on March 2. More:

Pakistani actress defies mullah accusing her of immoral behavior on an Indian reality TV show

Sherry Rehman next on Pakistan militants’ hitlist, friends fear

With the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti, the liberal parliamentarian has lost her second ally in opposing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Declan Walsh from Islamabad in The Guardian:

And then there was one. Of the three brave Pakistani politicians who stood up for Aasia Bibi, an embattled Christian woman flung on to death row last year, just one is still alive: Sherry Rehman. The liberal parliamentarian from Karachi, known for her glamorous style and outspoken views, spearheaded efforts to reform the much-abused blasphemy law after Bibi, a mother of four, was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad.

Rehman, 50, was joined in her lonely struggle by two men – the Punjab governor, Salmaan Taseer, and the minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti. Now both of them are dead and worries are growing that Rehman is next. “Make no mistake: she is in grave danger, like nobody else,” one friend said.

Rehman, is currently in New Delhi, visiting the Indian capital for a conference, in a rare public appearance. Since Taseer was gunned down by his guard outside an Islamabad cafe on 4 January she has lived in near hiding. She spent most of January holed up inside her Karachi home, surrounded by police and advised by senior government ministers to flee Pakistan lest she be assassinated.

“I get two types of advice about leaving,” she said then. “One from concerned friends, the other from those who want me out so I’ll stop making trouble. But I’m going nowhere.” More:

Pakistan awaiting the clerical tsunami

In an interview with Viewpoint, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy discusses the situation in Pakistan. Hoodbhoy received his undergraduate and PhD degrees from MIT and has been teaching nuclear and high-energy physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad for 37 years. He also lectures at US universities and laboratories, and is a frequent commentator, on Pakistani TV channels as well as international media outlets, on various social and political issues. [via 3quarksdaily]

The murder of Governor Salman Taseer, who opposed Pakistan’s blasphemy law, has shocked the world. But in Pakistan the killer has become a hero for a sizeable section of society. Why?

In a society dominated by traditional religious values, heroism often means committing some violent and self-destructive act for preserving honor. Although Governor Taseer was not accused of blasphemy, his crime was to seek presidential pardon for an illiterate peasant Christian woman accused of blasphemy by some Muslim neighbours. Taseer’s intervention clearly crossed the current limits of toleration. With no party support, he went at it alone.

Malik Mumtaz Qadri – the official security guard who pumped 22 bullets into the man he was deputed to protect – is not the first such hero. The 19-year old illiterate who killed the author of the book “Rangeela Rasool” in the 1920’s, and was then executed by the British, was held in the highest esteem by the founders of Pakistan, Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It is reported that Iqbal, regarded as Islam’s pre-eminent 20th century philosopher, placed the body in the grave with tears in his eyes and said: “This young man left us, the educated men, behind.” Ghazi Ilm-e-Deen is venerated by a mausoleum over his grave in Lahore.

In his court testimony, Taseer’s assassin proudly declared that he was executing Allah’s will. Hundreds of lawyers – made famous by the Black Coat Revolution that restored Pakistan’s Chief Justice – showered him with rose petals while he was in police custody. Two hundred lawyers signed a pledge vowing to defend him for free. Significantly, Qadri is a Barelvi Muslim belonging to the Dawat-e-Islami, and 500 clerics of this faith supported his action in a joint declaration. They said that those who sympathized with Taseer deserved similar punishment.

Significantly most of these mullahs are part of the Sunni Tehreek and are supposedly anti-Taliban moderates. Indeed, one of their leaders, Maulana Sarfaraz Naeemi, was blown up by a Taliban suicide bomber in June 2009 after he spoke out against suicide bombings. But now these “moderates” have joined hands with their attackers. Jointly they rule Pakistan’s streets today, while a cowardly and morally bankrupt government cringes and caves in to their every demand.

Pakistani voters have always voted for secular-leaning parties but it appears that today the religious parties actually represent popular discourse. Do you concur?

Yes, I do. Those who claim that Pakistan’s silent majority is fundamentally secular and tolerant may be clutching at straws. They argue that the religious parties don’t get the popular vote and so cannot really be popular. But this is wishful thinking. The mullah parties are unsuccessful only because they are geared for street politics, not electoral politics. They also lack charismatic leadership and have bitter internal rivalries. However the victory of the MMA after 911 shows that they are capable of closing ranks. It is also perfectly possible that a natural leader will emerge and cause an electoral landslide in the not too distant future.

But even without winning elections, the mullah parties are immensely more powerful in determining how you and I live than election-winning parties like the PPP and ANP. For a long time the religious right has dictated what we can or cannot teach in our public and private schools. No government ever had the guts to dilute the hate materials being forced down young throats. They also dictate what you and I can wear, eat, or drink. Their unchallenged power has led to Pakistan’s cultural desertification because they violently oppose music, dance, theatre, art, and intellectual inquiry.

To be sure there are scattered islands of normality in urban Pakistan. But these are shrinking. Yes, the Baluch nationalists are secular, and so is the ethnically-driven MQM in Karachi. But these constitute a tiny fraction of the population. More:

How he was sentenced to die

Kim Sengupta of The Independent, UK, interviews Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the student journalist sentenced to death, in a prison in Mazar-I-Sharif, Afghanistan:

pervezkambaksh.jpg

‘What they call my trial lasted just four minutes in a closed court. I was told that I was guilty and the decision was that I was going to die’ 

Clutching the bars at his prison, Sayed Pervez Kambaksh recalls how his life unravelled. “There was no question of me getting a lawyer to represent me in the case; in fact I was not even able to speak on my own defence.”

The 23-year-old student, whose death sentence for downloading a report on women’s rights from the internet has become an international cause célèbre, was speaking to The Independent at his jail in Mazar-i-Sharif – the first time the outside world has heard his own account of his shattering experience. In a voice soft, somewhat hesitant, he said: “The judges had made up their mind about the case without me. The way they talked to me, looked at me, was the way they look at a condemned man. I wanted to say ‘this is wrong, please listen to me’, but I was given no chance to explain.”

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How Pakistan blocked YouTube to the rest of the world

From The Washington Post:

If you happened to be searching for a video at YouTube.com Sunday afternoon, there’s a good chance your browser told you it was unable to locate the entire Web site. Turns out, much of the world was blocked from getting to YouTube for part of the weekend due to a censorship order passed by the government of Pakistan, which was apparently upset that YouTube refused to remove digital images many consider blasphemous to Islam.

According to wire reports, Pakistan ordered all in-country Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to YouTube.com, complaining that the site contained controversial sketches of the Prophet Mohammed which were republished by Danish newspapers earlier this month. The people running the country’s ISPs obliged, but evidently someone at Pakistan Telecom – the primary upstream provider for most of the ISPs in Pakistan – forgot to flip the switch that prevented those blocking instructions from propagating out to the rest of the Internet.

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Let Sayed Kambakhsh live

Indrajit Hazra in Hindustan Times.

Afghanistan will be judged by the way it treats one man this time there’s no Taliban to blame. The death sentence handed out to 23-year-old Afghan journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh on January 22 in a primary court in the province of Balkh has the support of Himachal Pradesh University alumnus, champion of liberalism and enemy of the Taliban, President Hamid Karzai himself. On October 22, 2007, Kambakhsh was arrested for downloading and keeping an article from the internet that spoke about what the Koran has to say about women. Picked up by the authorities in Mazar-e-Sharif, the student of journalism and contributor to Jahan-e-Naw was tried behind closed doors, without a lawyer to defend him and was found guilty of blasphemy and “disseminating defamatory comments about Islam”.

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