The Blaspheming Hilarity

Source: Pakistan Today

Source: ARY Digital/Pakistan Today

Never before in the history of Pakistan has the political tool of Blasphemy ever been used in a more hilarious and ridiculous manner.

Because never before an obviously reverent religious piece has been turned into a perceived blasphemy. And never before the adherents of the sect that would otherwise hold the work of art in honor out of religious fervor would be resorting to lodge complaints of blasphemy against it.

It is just like crying blasphemy for a hymn honoring Allah and the Prophet and calling for its ban. It makes no sense to a casual observer.

But it would make perfect sense when seen in the context of the campaign against GEO TV, after it launched an attack on the DG ISI in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on Hamid Mir.

More than Shaista Lodhi’s “blasphemous” show, the following show by Mubasher Lucman, created all the stir. Ironically, the same song had run on his own channel.

 

Never before have two media groups been at odds with each other for committing a blasphemy. Never before have prominent anchors and artists been the targets of the blasphemy police in this manner.

Is it a coincidence that a talk show anchor forges a blasphemy out of thin air of a hymn that is frequently used by the adherents of a certain sect? Not only was this an effort to wrongly accuse of blasphemy, but one that could have deepened the sectarian rift in the country.

What is actually even worse is that the Shia scholars have joined the ranks of pro-establishment commentators in accusing the network and participants of the show for committing the blasphemy. They have joined forces with the Sunni Ittehad Council, which has issued a fatwa against GEO that watching the cable network is haraam or forbidden.

All of a sudden, there are rallies and protest marches all over the country. None of it seems to be a coincidence or a spontaneous reaction. But it could actually be, as nothing else unites this nation of religious harassers more than blasphemy.

A couple of days later, the Islamabad High Court issues notices to not only the GEO Network, Mir Shakeel ur Rehman, Shaista Lodhi, Veena Malik and her husband, but also to Mubasher Lucman, ARY Digital, Nida Pasha, singer Amjad Sabri and the poem of the hymn Aqeel Mohsin Naqvi. All in a bid to ban the Shia mankabat or religious ode or hymn or whatever it is.

Now how come the idea of banning a piece of religious music is not blasphemous? Why are the Shia scholars quiet about this piece of sacrilege to something that they would otherwise revere.

As a matter of fact, the Shia folks pretty much have no choice when it comes to the GEO Network Blasphemy controversy. On one hand, there is the pressure from the state establishment, and on the other, there is the vicious Sunni blasphemy police.

But one thing is for sure.

Never before has the phenomenon of blasphemy appeared so clearly as a political tool as it has in this controversy.

Especially when there clearly was no blasphemy. And an alleged one that was noticed all of a sudden by everyone when an anchor spots it on a network against which he spews venom every night and still continues to do so.

And a network that just committed blasphemy against the most powerful intelligence agency in the country.

Only today, PEMRA has announced the suspension of the license of GEO Network channels for airing the blasphemous content. To be further confirmed on May 28.

So which blasphemy is greater?

The one against the family members of the Prophet or the one against the ISI and the military?

The Embarrassment of Standing With the Oppressed

Source: M. Jibran Nasir facebook page

Source: M. Jibran Nasir facebook page – Under fair use

I am not particularly proud to be a Pakistani citizen.

I don’t really find it an unpatriotic thing to say because someone sympathetic to the country would say that provided its discriminating history. The Pakistani constitution, law and the society are largely discriminating.

So when you stand with the oppressed minority groups in Pakistan, there is this perpetual embarrassment that you need to deal with.

Take the Pakistan Christian community for an example, the most popular and widely recognized religious minority group in Pakistan. Most Pakistani people would agree with offering them security and coexisting peacefully with them.

Even with such a minority religious group, you would have the dilemma of treating them as if they were weak or not even raising that point at all. I mostly prefer to do the latter usually, though you can always agree with them tactfully about how terrible discrimination is.

Morally speaking, they are not weak, and it would be rather insulting to make that point, but let us face facts. They are not exactly powerful and are most certainly oppressed.

Especially in the wake of the Peshawar church bombing killing more than 300, the realization is increased, especially in protests and political events. But what remains is their constant friendliness, peacefulness and tolerance. What is added is a slight anger toward the intolerance, which is justified, natural and understandable.

I have no sympathies with the theology of any minority religious group, as is the case with majority religious groups, because they are as dangerous in their effect as the other. I know some Pakistani Christians, though not everyone, are as eager for their share of blasphemy law, despite knowing how harmful it can be to just about anyone.

But their religious zeal does not change anything for the better for them in the Pakistani society, where disbelief is a crime, more or less, or enough to qualify someone to be ostracized. Besides, they are not treated as equal citizens anyway, despite their religiosity.

So I want to save myself further embarrassment and would like to say that protesters and activists rallying for peace and against terrorism should raise their voices to demand a secular constitution. So while I may not exactly be proud to be a Pakistani citizen, I would have one less reason to be ashamed.

So instead of promoting gibberish like “Many Faiths, One God”, we should demand the elimination of the intrusion of faith into public life.

Keep your religion to yourself.

Why the Society Absolutely Needs the Council of Islamic Ideology

Source: Pakistan Today

Source: Pakistan Today

Although it is needless to emphasize the importance of the prestigious institute of the Council of Islamic Ideology, considering the kind of constitution and state we have in Pakistan, still it would be a good idea for the Pakistani youth to evaluate the kind of ideas they are putting forth. For their guidance, of course.

I have to offer some counter recommendations to the proposals they have presented only a few days ago. Accepting these recommendations, however, are up to the able people and government of Pakistan.

The Blasphemy Law should not be amended in order to protect minorities. 

Now this is an absolutely valid recommendation. In what other way could the minority religious groups would possibly feel safe if they were not told what to say and what to do? They should actually be prosecuted and indicted more frequently under the Blasphemy Law, so they can feel safer and happier under the infallible protection and shelter of the state. Their homes certainly are unsafe places for them, as we have seen time and time again.

Source: Abid Nawaz/Express

Source: Abid Nawaz/Express

Human Cloning is forbidden under the Shariah. 

There can hardly be a second opinion to this. What could be more horrific than reproducing another human being? Rather recreating. Are not such claims synonymous to challenging Allah that we can do just as good as you do. Indeed, secular scientists only use “medical research” as an excuse to indulge in this immoral and totally unnecessary act. I propose that cloning must be dealt with under the provisions of the Blasphemy Law. This should put such Satanic ideas to rest for good.

DNA shall not be considered primary evidence in rape cases. It can only be used as a secondary or supporting evidence.

Considering that adultery/fornication is a crime of as horrific proportions as rape, especially when done on the sidewalks, the prime evidence condition of four male witnesses should be upheld, and must have precedence over all other forms of evidence. This is why women are recommended to accompany at least four men, acquainted or not, with them at all times and under all circumstances, especially when wearing provocative clothing, so that they do not feel unsafe should a rapist attempt to approach them with malicious intentions.

Furthermore, why would a sane and righteous judge want to trust a woman’s testament which only has half as much weight as that of the accused?

Surely, she could wrongfully accuse an honorable man of faith. Through science, we do know now that all human DNA is 99.99999997% identical, so she could produce someone else’s DNA as effortlessly as if it was the real deal and the honorable courts would not be able to tell the difference. Besides, using DNA as prime evidence would trigger more indictments in rape cases, which would mean more stoned-to-death men and which would mean lesser chances of reproduction for men looking to increase the population of the followers of the Prophet.

What the hell are all the liberal people and feminists complaining about?

The Rectification of the secular translations of terms “Allah”, “Rasool” and “Masjid” as “God”, “Messenger” and “Mosque” or “Place of Worship”. 

This is a much needed recommendation in order to nullify the vile actions of a certain minority in the country that is hellbent to secularize things which are not even meant to be secular. However, there should be a certain exception to the rule, before it is blindly put into effect.

You would not want the Ahmedi community to be using the term “Masjid”, would you?

Of Honor and Cruelty

Protest in Karachi for Rimsha Case (Source: Sunny Gill for Christians in Pakistan)

I missed talking about a recent case of public lynching that took place in Tando Adam, Sindh, recently, as I had not outraged about it half as much as I had done with the Sialkot incident. The Tando Adam incident is important because it is more offensive in so many ways. While the brothers in Sialkot were suspected robbers, the boys killed in Tando Adam were suspected by people of having sex with a girl in an “illegitimate” way, which was apparently not forceful. The young boys were brutally beaten in public and made to bleed to death. Sounds worse than Muslim Hell to me.

So now you cannot even have sex with some random person in Pakistan without getting killed. But thankfully, most of the people get away with it without meeting such fate. These particular individuals were not so lucky unfortunately. As usual the local police was nowhere to be seen but not sure if they were as much involved along with the primary offenders as in the Sialkot case. The video clip got leaked or was released with planning this time around as well and the media further propagated it. In any case, such brutalities of the society should not go unnoticed. The following video has extremely graphic content, posting for the record.

Ghairat” which is roughly and pretty inappropriately translated to the word “honor”, has been a great domestic killer in Pakistan, though it is also a phenomenon prevalent in the rest of the sub-continent. Not long ago, the parents, the brother and the sister of a Pakistani-Belgian girl have been found guilty for murdering her “in the name of honor” and are now doing time. While some people have objected to the term “honor killing” for the righteous impression it could give and have called for changing it with something like “dishonor killing” or something (which sounds even more ridiculous), I think that keeping it this way busts the myth that something like murder could be associated with (false) honor.

Well so much for the copulation-preventing honor, but “ghairat” is a term with a much more broader meaning and it actually also applies to being empathetic and sensitive towards atrocities and injustice, believe it or not. So while our nation can be perfectly “ghairatmand” or “honorable” to kill its daughters for having their own way with their sex lives, it is perfectly “beghairat” or dishonorable for letting a little girl rot in jail for a “crime” that she does not even understand. Blasphemy.

Just after 3 days of the 65th independence day and 3 days before Eid, Rimsha Masih, a young girl of 11 or 14 years of age, and who happens to be Christian, was arrested by the Islamabad police on the charge of desecrating the Holy Koran in the G-12 sector of Islamabad, the nation’s capital. The girl has been reported to be suffering from Down’s Syndrome, a mental disorder which disables a child’s cognitive abilities. At that age and with that mental condition, I can hardly imagine if she would even be aware of the existence of Muslims or the Koran, let alone the thought of understanding any hatred fed to her by anyone, as is the impression on many people.

The child was reported to be caught by some locals with burned pieces of a children’s learning book for reading the Koran, so you cannot even be sure if the burned page had any Koranic verses on it. But let’s suppose there must be. Regardless of that, it was inhuman of some of the locals to try beating the child and to hand her over to the police and she is still rotting in their custody. Ironically, handing her over to the police is considered rather safe in this case. What’s worse, the Christians of the colony had started leaving for the fears of a Gojra like incident, in which Muslim mobs set an entire Christian colony on fire. The matter has finally come to the attention of mainstream media, after days of outrage in the Pakistani social media circles, which has actually led to somewhat shocking discoveries.

Hafiz Khaled Chishti (Source: PukhtoonistanGazette)

On Geo TV political talkshow Capital Talk, which is hosted by journalist Hamid Mir, the Imam Masjid, or roughly the pastor of the local mosque, Hafiz Khaled Chishti was interviewed. He admitted on TV that he had been urging the locals to drive the members of Christian community out of the area, “since we are an Islamic state”, and that their presence was causing a hindrance to allow them to perform their “religious obligations”. What I cannot figure out is why that Imam Masjid has not been arrested for such a sermon instead of that poor troubled little girl. I think you hardly need to say anything else about the state and government of Pakistan and the moral degeneration of its self-righteous society.

Furthermore, the most disappointing aspect of the talk show was that no one was ready to even discuss that blasphemy should be challenged as a crime or not, which is the reason why the tone of this post is so biased in favor of the child. Also it is shameful how condescending the attitude of some of the participants was towards the “minorities”. The anchor seeing the silver lining that people actually did not seek mob justice and did not set her house on fire and the Maulana on the panel bestowing the favor of letting Christians conduct their religious ceremonies and congregations. Well thank you very much. I find it utterly disgusting.

I think we have a long way to go, if there is any end in sight anyway.

The following is the talk show as available on youtube in Urdu.

This post is dedicated to all the people who claim that Islam is an all-encompassing religion which offers complete protection to non-Muslims in a society under its domain. It is also dedicated to the people who think that certain religious minorities such as Christians are not being persecuted in Pakistan and it also requires the attention of those who consider Muslims to be incapable of any such behavior.

But then again, why worry.

Rimsha is just another guinea pig to be sacrificed in Quaid-e-Azam’s laboratory of Islam.

The Religion of Brutal Murderers

Source: Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters/CFR

Well, let’s not restrain and offer respites when something so atrocious occurs in the name of faith and religious fervor that it defies all standards of cruelty, barbarism and inhumanity. Islam has proudly maintained a very consistent record in this regard, at least in the recent years, along with other great faiths of the world, particularly at the heart of its very own Islamic Republic of Pakistan. A state where the most fervent and the truest of Muslims in the whole wide world live.

Fervent Muslims are pretty interesting as far as their keenness in inquiring about others’ faith is concerned. Especially when it concerns their own faith and are yet said to believe in the scripture with the “to each his own” kind of verse, as far as faith is concerned. However, they still seem very much concerned about what people around them seem to believe or not believe in, particularly when it has anything remotely to do with their faith. Poor Ahmedis. They should have chosen connection with some other faith.

An essential part of the Islamic faith, with some schools more enthusiastic about it than others, is to scan their environment for blasphemies and to eliminate the guilty party or at least start babbling about it. While the very act can argued to be potentially intellectual and beneficial from an evolutionary viewpoint, it nevertheless contradicts the high claims of the adherents of this faith of its transcendental code of ethics and humanity, and probably of those who have falsely popularized the misnomer of “Religion of Peace”.

Speaking of that, it is important to clarify here that calling Islam the “Religion of Peace” on the basis of the fact that the Arabic word “Islam” means “Peace” is wrong. It is so because in the context of the religion, the word “Islam” means “Submission”, which could also extend into the functional meaning of oppression. But that’s detail. So why are we talking about the “Religion of Peace” again?

It seems that the Muslims in Pakistan, which apparently are the truest in the world, have no better pastime, apart from oppressing women in the most creative ways, than scanning their immediate and not-so-immediate environment for blasphemies. Another such event occurred in the Chanighot part of the great city of the Princely State of Bahawalpur. A wild, angry and extremely pious mob set a man on fire on a public square on the charges that the person had desecrated the Holy Koran.

Well, there is no point recreating the scene, as you can read the story at this link yourself. Apparently, the pious were not happy, that the man, a malang, a Sufi ascetic holy man who is usually not in control of his senses due to his perpetually intoxicated state of mind, was arrested by the police on the charge of blasphemy. The clerics of the area made inflammatory speeches that enough justice was not done, which inspired the locals to set the police station on fire, as well as the culprit, who was burned alive in a public square, as the police stood there, witnessing the historic and spectacular punishment.

Undoubtedly the punishment for the apparently mentally challenged person, who most probably even would not be aware of what the Koran actually was anymore, could not be more appropriate and fitting. After all, how can anyone dare not respect the truest of all the scriptures. Especially when it is believed by the truest of all the Muslims. The punishment of such a blasphemer should be worse than death. They should be tortured to death, burned at stake.

While you could argue that the miscreants in this case do not represent the vast majority of Muslims, it is better that you save yourself the trouble. I won’t stereotype here but I have pretty systematically and personally found even the most educated of Muslims acting in the same spirit and principle as the violent and blood-thristy mob in Bahawalpur more or less did, whenever it comes to blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad or the desecration of the Koran. Even though there is no body to account for the way Muslims sometimes treat the Koran themselves, but let’s not enter the realm of raising doubts about the doubtless faithfuls.

The greatest evidence of that came right after the murder of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in the January of 2011, when right winger extremists, particularly Barelvi Sunnis, who claim to be a peaceful sect, and even lawyers, the defenders of the bigoted constitution of Pakistan, were dancing in jubilation and showering praises and rose petals on the criminal murder Malik Mumtaz Qadri, which they proudly deem the “Ghazi” or the “surviving hero”. This is evidence enough of what this religion has become in Pakistan, if it ever was not like this once.

However, apologists would say that the act of this tiny mob in Bahawalpur or that of a fanatically fervent security guard should not be blamed on the entire Muslim community and the great faith of Islam. While that is true that the entire community must not be blamed for these “remote” acts, but there is no doubt about the fact that the community is not fulfilling its duties to discourage such events, which actually occur on regular basis. Thankfully, we always conveniently forget cases like Aasia Bibi. What is worse, such brutalities and discriminating murder have been institutionalized by the Pakistani state in the blasphemy law.

This is where these actions exit the domain of mobs and individuals and enter the supervision of the mosque, the state, the law and the clerics and the religion of Islam itself. This is where all the possible defense of the faith of Islam is destroyed in my books. Certainly such a faith deserves no respect or immunity from criticism at all. Also saying that there is nothing in the Koran that even alludes to the punishment for blasphemy is a meaningless argument because the Hadith-abiding Sunnis of Pakistan, who believe in murdering for blasphemy as an article of faith, don’t give any weight to it.

However, if there is any trace of humanity left in this gang of brutal and heartless murderers, then they should at least condemn the most painful torture and the most horrific murder of a man who was not even in his senses or for a crime that he probably didn’t even commit, or even if he did, did not commit it consciously. I think the elated founders of the religion or of the belief that death should be the penalty for blasphemy themselves might have exercised caution in this case, if I may wishfully assume that.

A lot of people in the West criticizing Islam are accused of “Islamophobia”, and while the prejudice against Muslims do exist, there is no doubt that there is a lot of reasonable criticism on Islam which Muslims conveniently dodge in the name of religious freedom. Unfortunately, there are quite a few parts of their faith which leave the realm of religious freedom and fall under the definition of crime and human rights violation. That is where religious freedom ends, sadly for them.

Therefore, it is the duty of progressive, educated and pragmatic Muslims to take a stand and start criticizing Islam in order to make the necessary and required improvements that it needs. It is so because any non-Muslim will be conveniently labelled an Islamophobe, just like anyone criticizing Israeli atrocities is conveniently labelled an Antisemitic. Therefore, people who really want the world to respect Islam and count it as a peaceful and non-violent religion, must have to take the initiative to bringing about the necessary changes.

I am usually not too eager to quote secular Pakistani journalist Nadeem F. Paracha but he wrote a really pinching piece on this event and the growing extremism of terrorist proportions in Pakistan. It’s a real reality check. Something that every Pakistani child should try reading to free themselves of the inhumane faith that they are conditioned to believe in.

Or the critics of Islam would keep on saying from time to time, again and again, as I read somewhere in an online discussion.

The Religion of Peace Strikes Again.

The Example of Shahbaz Bhatti

Source: Asianews.it

There are not a lot of countries which have to endure unpleasant occurrences such as the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, since which a year has passed on March 2 this year, but even rare are examples set with such crude nudity and such evident clarity that religious extremism can really plague a society like a cancerous tumor. Pakistan is one country that proudly boasts fundamentalism as a part of its dysfunctional constitution and law.

Like always, you cannot be absolutely sure about who did it but the evidence and the messages left at the spot clearly point towards the Pakistani Taliban, a separatist faction which wants to enforce its brand of militant Shariah in the country, which many argue is what the Shariah is, but that’s another subject. It is thought that Bhatti was assassinated for his criticism on the Blasphemy Law. Ever since he has been silenced, so have been most of the voices in the country who were outspoken about it.

In any case, this pretty much puts to rest any false assertions about the Islamic constitution and law, or at least an Islamic Republic, protecting minorities. Even if that is true in theory, it certainly is not in practice. This is usually what I tell Muslim Pakistanis, like many other people who support a Secular constitution and law, that no matter how much you are confident about the provisions in the Islamic law, or Shariah, to protect the minorities, that is not how non-Muslims see that law and that is precisely the reason why there should be an “agreed upon” and uncontroversial constitution and the law, which should not be disputed by any party. As a matter of fact, most of the non-Muslims will immediately raise objections as soon as they hear about the Shariah or the Islamic Law.

People may or may not agree with it, but Bhatti’s assassination has been an alarming point raising question marks about the kind of protection the law and constitution of the country offer to its citizens. I am not talking about communities and minorities here because it sort of disturbs me calling for the rights of this community and that community. Every citizen has their rights and we don’t really have to refer to people as minorities, as if they are not completely a part of the society.

The bottom line is that Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination has been a wake up call for the Pakistani state and especially the Pakistani people that only a secular constitution, which is not loaded with communal bias, is the foundation to the solution of the problems of the country regarding civil rights.

To remind you of the neverending need for protest and the great struggle for civil rights in Pakistan in the face of pointless religious extremism, leaving you with the best sign spotted in a Shahbaz Bhatti assassination protest.

Hope she gets heard some day.

One of the best signs ever seen in a Shahbaz Bhatti assassination protest rally. Source: Abid Nawaz/Express Tribune

Taseer Assassination: What Have We Learned?

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

                                                                                                                          – Voltaire

Source: AllVoices.com

A year ago, on this very day, the Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by one of his guards. Allegedly, the guard killed Taseer for calling the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan a Draconian law and for advocating Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian who is still under arrest on charge of blasphemy.

What have we learned from this shocking event so far?

Although nothing can make up for the loss of the person of Salmaan Taseer and his role in the Pakistani society as an entrepreneur and a leader but on the bright side it made a rift in the Pakistani society. Many among Pakistani people realized for the first time that the monster of religious fanaticism was getting out of hand, despite several incidents of violence against minorities over the years.

Why is Salmaan Taseer important? He was just another politician who was probably more hated than admired, so why his death should cause such an outcry?

The reason why Salmaan Taseer mattered, and still matters, is because as funny as he was in his witty speech, he ended up touching some of the most serious and sensitive issues in Pakistan. He was the only politician, apart from Sherry Rehman, who challenged the authority of the Blasphemy Law.

Furthermore, his actions and especially his death has strengthened the beliefs of many that the remedy to Pakistan’s rapidly multiplying religious fanaticism is nothing but a secular constitution and brutal state action against hate preaching, something which most Pakistani politicians would give anything to block, even the so-called Pakistani secular parties.

There are people who would tell you that we should carry on the mission of Salmaan Taseer so that his blood does not go wasted. I would just say that Salmaan Taseer is not among us any more to care a little bit about what we think or do about what he stood for in the months before his assassination.

It is a matter of survival and progress of the Pakistani nation if it chooses or not to adopt the values that Taseer advocated pertaining to the Blasphemy law and Asia Bibi. As long as Pakistanis keep discriminating on the basis of religion and persecute its minorities, they will continue to build their society on the foundation of hatred, discrimination and inhuman values and further threatening the lives of its very own citizens, regardless of their community.

What we learn from the Taseer Assassination is that we have a long way to go as far as attaining civil rights is concerned. We have also learned that none of that would have happened if Pakistan had a secular constitution. We can prevent many more assassinations of brave persons like Taseer who would stand up against religious fanaticism if only we make a few adjustments in our textbook ruling the state, so that at least the state would offer protection to the persecuted.

But what has changed since Taseer’s assassination? Nothing. Actually, his assassin was garlanded. Asia Bibi is still in prison and perhaps it is better this way unless she finds asylum in a safe place where her life is not threatened. The Pakistani state seems least bothered about the Blasphemy Law, the persecution of the minorities and religious fanaticism. It is up to the Pakistani youth and teachers to take on this challenge and to propagate humanitarian values in the society.

The actual motive behind Taseer’s assassination can be debated but not most people’s insensitivity. Actually why be shocked if the assassin of Salman Taseer is showered with petals and hailed as a hero. That is all what we have taught our people and expecting them to act otherwise would be just like expecting a field of wheat when you have sown the seeds of poppy. When religious beliefs begin to overshadow humanitarian values, far worse things can happen. So what have we learned?

Maybe said a thousand times before.

The answer lies in humanitarian education and a bit of courage to question the absurdities of religion.

The answer lies not in despising people, but connecting to them.

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