Thursday, September 17, 2009

In the Name of Blasphemy, Pakistani Christians Under Frequent Attack - 17

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Some Observations on
the Blasphemy Law Issues in Pakistan

Some news headlines on attacks on Christians in Pakistan
Layout © Joachim Romeo D'Costa (Sept., 2009)

If we carefully review the blasphemy law situation and reflect on the blasphemy cases against Christians and other minorities in Pakistan, what do we see?

  1. The initial blasphemy laws were promulgated by the British in undivided India in 1927. Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haq in 1986 added several sections in the Pakistan Penal Code. Later there were some amendments added to make the blasphemy laws of Pakistan the most severe in the world. From 1927 to 1986, there were only seven recorded blasphemy cases in the region that now constitutes Pakistan. After 1986 until 2005, about 4,000 blasphemy cases have been filed.Minorities, including Christians, living in Muslim majority countries know well the consequences of a wrong move regarding the Quran and Prophet Mohammad. No minority person in his or her right mind would dare do anything that would bring in devastating ire and retribution from the majority community and jeopardize one's own life and security. So blasphemy by a minority would be the rarest thing in the world. Moreover, is it believable at all that minorities, especially Christians in Pakistan, would be in the sudden suicidal march in the field of blasphemy when they had been living in quite harmony with their Muslim neighbours in last several hundred years? The present overproduction of of blasphemy cases in Pakistan point to a greater malady in that region. A person with a common sense understands that there is something wrong with these so-called blasphemy cases.
  2. If we view the issues from different angles of the blasphemy cases, we see the following: a) Governments: The Provincial Governments are the first ones that are supposed to deal with the blasphemy issues and cases. These governments proved time and again that they had failed to prevent wrongful blasphemy cases and marauding attacks on religious minority villages and settlements as well as their places of worship. Officials of these governments always rush to the devastated areas only after the event and express their sympathy and grant compensation to the victims and relatives of the dead. Neither these governments took appropriate measures for arresting ring-leaders of the mayhem nor the inciters of riots. The Central or Federal Government, on the other hand, failed to stop the abuses of the blasphemy laws. It has been giving a deaf ear to the cry of the religious minority communities for abrogating these infamous laws or reforming the laws in such a way that blasphemy cases are taken by authorized government officials after thorough scrutiny and investigation and provisions are made to severely punish the accusers who file blasphemy cases by making false accusations. b) Fanatic and Extremist Groups: It is extremely sad that they are able to publicly (over the microphones of mosques) incite fellow gullible Muslims to attack minorities in their villages, settlements an places of worship. These groups also recruit the local imams (prayer leaders in mosques) and madrassa (Islamic religious school) students in their evil deed which is contrary to the real Islam. In most instances, these imams, extremist groups and their leaders get away from any prosecution. c) Law-Enforcement Personnel: Some of these people are ready to violate the country's laws to side with the unreasonable and lawless religious fanatics for personal gains. This type of behaviour is un-Islamic because instead of bringing about justice, instead of helping the vulnerable, they side with the rich and powerful who use unlawful means to reach their objectives. d) Judges: Some of the judges give in to the pressure and intimidation of the fanatics and give wrong judgment against innocent people of the minority communities. They, thereby, act against Islamic principles and teachings. Being in authority position, if they perform their duty under duress, they can't do justice to the blasphemy cases. The government has the duty to give proper protection to the judges and punish anyone who threaten them to give wrongful judgment. e) Religious Minority Groups: Religious Minorities in Pakistan consist of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Ahmedis (Qadianis). Besides the Ahmedis, other minority groups belong to the lowest stratum of the society. Financially and socially they are in most vulnerable position. After the blasphemy laws of 1986, these minorities are being hunted down by some of the Muslim rich and powerful in the name of blasphemy. The vision of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, is being trampled upon in the name of blasphemy laws. In a speech to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, he had said: "You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or 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" (http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/legislation/constituent_address_11aug1947.html/).
  3. Mosques are prayer houses of the Muslims. These are sacred places. These places are supposed to be used for praying to Allah (God), for hearing enlightening sermons on bettering one's religious, moral and ethical life and living peacefully with others who are not Muslims. But, in reality, we see that certain mosques have become a vehicle for preaching hatred, for taking revenge on others, and for inciting simple and gullible Muslims to murder kaffirs (infidels, i.e. non-Muslims), to ransack their houses and places of worship, to loot household items and to grab lands illegally. All these un-Islamic activities -- condemned by the Quran and Sunnah (tradition of Prophet Mohammad) -- are being done in the name of protecting Islam. In short, certain mosques are being used to violate Pakistan's civil and criminal laws in broad daylight.
  4. Madrassa is an Islamic school which is supposed to teach and help youngsters practise real Islam. They are supposed to behave with others showing proper respect following Islamic principles. Some madrassa students are regularly being used and abused. They are being instigated to participate in hate speech, rampaging houses and places of worship of the minorities, looting valuables and setting fire on properties, and in certain cases, even in murdering others. If these young people can do these in their primes, what will they do in their later ages? What will they teach their children in future?
  5. If the law-breaking ceremonies (by way of filing wrongful blasphemy cases with the help of some of policemen, by lying and inciting people by falsely claiming blasphemy, by attacking people, homes and prayer houses, and by participating in arson) continue unabated, they become a habit. In future, these very people will do the same with other Muslims and the Government. So, instead of practising real Islam -- that asks for tolerance, peace and equality of all -- they will turn into a bunch of rowdies, anarchists and habitual lawbreakers. This situation is never a healthy one for progress and prosperity of a country.
  6. The preaching, teaching and defending of Islam are being hijacked by certain groups that use Islam for their own political, economic and social gains and interests. They want to be the guardians of Islam by violence, intimidation and other illegal means.
  7. Pakistan is officially called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where 96% people are Muslims. In this type of republic, Islamic laws and principles are supposed to be followed by Muslims in all spheres of their life. Real Islam is supposed to be taught, propagated and observed. In this type of country, minority communities are also supposed to be protected and given proper security. "Islamic Republic" is not supposed to be only a slogan, but a reality in life.
(Continued)


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