A Heroic Verdict from a Dark Judiciary

Source: aleteia.org

Finally! Asia Bibi has been acquitted of committing a non-crime.

Imagine the agony of the nine precious, irreplaceable years that the people and the state of Pakistan have taken away from her. Imagine the pain she and her family have been going through. As a nation, we have truly abused, harassed, and silenced her.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar is a complex character. He is a judicial vigilante with an exaggerated sense of self-importance and probably believes that he has been sanctioned by divine authority to carry out some special task. This probably explains his bizarre behavior as the office-bearer of the highest judicial position in the country. However, his latest action, or at least the bench under him, has resulted in a historic heroic verdict from what has been an otherwise dark judiciary under him.

As heroic this verdict is, you can still read its full text and laugh at some of the ridiculous religious articles found in its initial arguments, especially conceding that the penalty for blaspheming against the Holy Prophet should be death as per the Islamic teachings. Not much you can blame the judges for considering the nature of the cases they are dealing with. However, going deep into it, you would wonder how the lower courts found Asia Bibi guilty based on the testimony that the current Supreme Court found untrustworthy and not having legal standings. This speaks volumes about how dangerous the blasphemy law and its usage in the judiciary. It is shocking how such interpretations of judges could be the difference between the life and death of a person. Especially in ridiculous offenses such as blasphemy.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa closes his judgment with a particularly interesting remark.

Blasphemy is a serious offence but the insult of the appellant’s religionand religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixingtruth with falsehood in the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PeaceBe Upon Him) was also not short of being blasphemous. It is ironical thatin the Arabic language the appellant’s name Asia means ‘sinful’ but inthe circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in thewords of Shakespeare’s
King Leare, “more sinned against than sinning”.
– p. 55, Criminal Appeal No. 39-L of 2015, October 31, 2018

Of course, following this verdict, pandemonium ensured across the country. The lunatic goons of the Tehreek Labaik Ya-Rasool Allah (TLP), a murderous cult of fanatics ran loose in the streets. The clerics of the movement openly called against the murder of the Justices who made the verdict and even called for the military rule on the condition of overthrowing Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa who is commonly “alleged” to be an Ahmedi, which is a total abomination in the Pakistani society. As we speak, the TLP is ruining the traffic in my town by staging a sit-in protest at Faizabad.

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The newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan, who ignored the clear merits of blocking roads and suddenly realizing that it hurts the poor, condemned elements such as the TLP and warned against stern action, even referring to them as “treasonous.” This bold piece of leadership also deserves a lot of appreciation.

Despite all their shortcomings and theocratic leanings, the Supreme Court justices managed to pull off not just a sane but heroic verdict under the circumstances. Their courage for keeping up the values of justice in the face of murderous religious fanatics is indeed praiseworthy.

Let’s hope these small steps of courage can lead to the eventual demise of the blasphemy law.

Antisemitism Never Goes Away

Source: Jene J. Puskar – AP

The Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting yet again proved the ever-lingering fear. Antisemitism just simply does not go away. No matter how many claims are made about Nazism being dead. On the other side on the anti-Israel spectrum, the arguments you get to hear are the very epitome of antisemitism. Why do Jews need a homeland when the Nazi threat is no more?

The heartbreaking massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh reminded you of the haunting memories of the 1970 Munich Olympics massacre and the suicide bombing at Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul in 2013. And these are just incidents of such a rampage that come to the surface because you cannot miss them in the news. The little acts of hate, seemingly unthreatening to the insensitive, happen all around the year and all the time.

It was probably days before the Pittsburgh massacre that a synagogue in Indiana was defaced with Nazi graffiti. And while the Jews in the Middle East are often told to “go back” to America and Europe, this often ignored pattern is just too shocking to ignore. As much as it is important to argue for a Palestinian state, it is also important to argue for strengthening the Jewish one.

All eleven people who lost their lives in Pittsburgh were above 50 years old. One even more than 90 years old. It is obvious anyone who is going to attack them just for being who they are is doing out of sheer hate and bigotry. There are no grievances here or some struggle for freedom involved, for the people who think that Jewish people are targeted in the Middle East just for occupation, it is sheer hate taught by one generation to the next unabated.

The turn that American politics has taken certainly is not helping that trend. While on one hand, President Trump seems to be the best friend of Israel by moving the embassy to Jerusalem, on the other, he has only been encouraging the White Supremacist Nationalists in his base. The terrible White Nationalist parade at Charlottesville, Virginia, is just one example. Perhaps, it is something for the Republican Jewish Coalition to think about.

But there is a reason the right wing is winning with the Jewish people too, especially back home in Israel. Because the left wing, as committed it has been against fascism (though some would argue not as much against antisemitism), they are beginning to give up on Israel. Somehow, the politicians in the United States and Israel and the Jewish community in general, need to come together with a sane way of reconciling conservatism with humane politics. There must be no room for racism, bigotry, and antisemitism on any platform, under any condition

Jews need a homeland because of Pittsburgh. Because of Charlottesville. Because the entire Western civilization is covered by a thin veil of civility that could slip off any time.