Blasphemy Law: Coming a full circle

via Dawn.com: Blasphemy Law: Coming a full circle.

It was bound to happen. When you have a vaguely worded law with so many loopholes, and a clergy hell bent on defining religion in asphyxiating, rigid boundaries, its supporters and enablers were bound to get scorched themselves. The law was eventually going to come and bite them in the back and that is exactly what happened two weeks ago.

According to the news story, a student of a religious seminary in Chakwal, Junaid Ahmad was arrested for being blasphemous. He was apparently seen burning pages of Quran a week ago, was beaten by a crowd and handed over to the police. Ironically, however, a shaken and frightened Junaid claimed that he was in reality disposing off Quran’s loose pages to save them from desecration.

The story behind Junaid’s action was simple enough. His teacher, who belongs to Tehrik Khuddam Ahl-i-Sunnat, had told him that burning Quranic pages was a legitimate way of disposing them along with putting them in flowing water (stream etc) and burying them. As he was unable to find the other two options, Junaid resorted to the third one. It was just his luck that the man who saw him as he set the pages on fire had heard from another cleric that burning the Quran amounted to desecrating it. What followed is an ominous reminder of sharply converging, and rigid, interpretations among various schools of religious thought.

Diversity, whether religious or cultural, is always a good thing. But here, this diversity of belief within sects and sub-sects is stamped with unflinching righteousness, intolerance, and violent knee-jerk reactions. Leaving the organised sectarianism between Shias and Sunnis aside, these widely varying interpretations in such an environment result in friction and veiled hatred towards other sects within one’s circle. In such a situation, incidents like the one in Chakwal are in reality a mere prelude to what can follow. One of the most obvious possibilities, while remaining within the ambit of law, is the misuse of the blasphemy law against those who are fanatically in favour of it.

This misuse has already started albeit it is infrequent at the moment. In January this year, an imam and his son from Dera Ghazi Khan were convicted for life for committing blasphemy. They were accused of ripping posters from outside their grocery shop which advertised an event to observe Eid Milad un Nabi (the birth and death anniversary of Prophet Muhammad). There was strong speculation that the issue was not of blasphemy but difference of belief. The Deobandi philosophy, to which the imam and his son prescribed, do not believe in commemorating such days. So where the incident might have simply been that of removing a poster from their personal property, it was forcefully catapulted in the sphere of intentional blasphemy.

The problem, boiled down to its essence, is this: In all this ritualistic madness, this manic obsession with the act rather than the intention behind it, these “men of faith” have lost the plot. And that is an under-statement. Here school girls are ostracised for misplacing a dot in a word. Doctors are locked up for throwing away a person’s visiting card who shared the prophet’s name. People are persecuted for greeting others in Arabic language. Supporters of blasphemy laws obsessively defend its need to deter people from taking the law in their own hands; but when a man defies this very logic and kills a sitting governor whom he had taken an oath to protect, they cheer and holler themselves hoarse in his support.

So far, most of the victims of these laws are minorities and those belonging to lower and lower-middle income groups. But it won’t remain the same forever. With ferocious intolerance being allowed to breed unchecked in our country, it was only a matter of time before the factions started using this law to target religious rivals at will.

Right now a broad spectrum of religious right is united in its defence of murderer Mumtaz Qadri. Their slogans, demonstrative of their tunnel-minded support for his actions, should be deafening alarm bells for the rest of us.

It is a matter of time before these stout believers, momentarily united in their hate against
“liberal fascists”, turn on each other. With such varied interpretations of religion, how will the courts interpret criteria of blasphemy? Will they take the easiest way out and just continue sentencing people in the hope the High Courts will correct the injustice? Will these cowardly actions really serve as a long-term pre-emptive solution or will the religious factions soon interlock horns?

If there is a legal or public showdown between people of different beliefs, the result will be more bloody, brutal and long drawn out than we can imagine. With all sides equally sure of their virtue and willing to die or kill for it, there might not be anyone standing at the end.

On a sardonic note, that will work out just right for the rest of the country.

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Ignoring is the first step towards ignorance

I am a frequent reader of Express tribune blogs, where I come across interesting viewpoints and mindsets. As people who have read my posts may have noticed that most of my posts are pro-Islamic yet anti-clergy. The reason for which is the fact that I believe the clergymen in practice today are steering majority of the nation (who follows them) in a dark ditch of ignorance. Then I came across this post on Express tribune blogs which was in agreement with what I have been telling my fellow Muslims about how these clergymen distort religious texts to gain their own benefits / congregation.

Naturally, I was expecting criticism to this by some hardline rightist, but it was shocking to see yet another viewpoint towards this issue. The author claims, it is better to ignore such things and move on. Many will agree and have taken up this viewpoint towards the distortion of Holy scriptures and religious theories. It is this attitude towards religion that is responsible for where our nation stands today both socially and economically. We allow these self-proclaimed scholars to continue professing ‘what they think is Islam’, these scholars know that no one will challenge their preaching, because as a matter of fact, people either don’t have time to look up their references or, as in this case, people don’t really care.

Today, we speak of accountability, in every aspect of life. Then why should we leave these clergymen unaccountable for what they preach? I can understand if religion is not a priority for many, but as I have said before, religion was the central entity towards development and disaster for every civilization. Take any example, Egyptians, Mayans, Aztecs, Greeks or Romans. Their rise and fall revolved around their religious beliefs whatever they may be! Muslims are no different (if you think of Muslims as a civilization).

If we ignore this (what may seem as a small) issue today, we will ignore other issues, that might be of importance tomorrow. In-fact, many did. Hence, it is time we show interest in matters of religion and try to understand, at least the important issues for ourselves, because we aren’t going to reach anywhere by following these self-proclaimed clerics neither are we going to achieve peace by completely ignoring issues related to our belief.

Reform the mindset, not individuals

Recently I went through an article observing the militant behavior of the tribe dwellers of Pakistan. I appreciate the good intention of the author, but her insight on this menace of ‘Islamic militancy’ is incomplete or limited.  It isn’t just Pakistan, majority Muslim on earth are brought up with the same interpretation of Qura’an. Muslims may or may not agree, but the whole theory of the ‘glorified Jihad’ (the armed one) is fed since they are very young.

This early radicalization of one’s belief is the root cause of these people being exploited by the extremists. I was reading the interview of one of these failed bombers in a Urdu newspaper and I was shocked and disgusted what they did with this innocent minds, turning them into killing machines. Please be cautioned that it might be explicit to certain readers, here is the abstract of that report.

The young boy claimed he was shown videos of Palestine, Kashmir and Afghanistan and told that he must wage Jihad against these people who are fighting with Muslims. In return, he will be married to 72 virgins in heaven. Then he was taken into a completely dark room, where he was asked to touch a girl/woman for a brief moment who was brought so closely he could feel her breath. He was told that he would get not one not two but seventy-two virgins like this up there.
……………
While they were driving him to the site, his eyes were covered, the driver started to drive wayward claiming that the 72 virgins are here to claim him that is why he is avoiding them to get hit.

Quite the craftsmen I must say, they exploit every inch of deprivation of these young men. Not only do they tell them of the fruits of heaven, they actually make them feel closer to it. And to imagine the Taliban want ‘Shariah‘, just thinking about this makes me sick. In the light of the report I quoted above, I must say that Talibans aren’t the culprit, the real con are religious clerics and the beliefs they put in the heads of young children. It is an open fact that what you put in a child’s mind grows firm as they age. The concept of Jihad and heaven is built within a young ones since they learn to talk. Apparently what the Taliban / Al-Qaeda is doing, is using this ‘Muslim belief’ and turning it against them.

I agree that reforms are required, but not just in the militants, in every Muslim, every individual. The solution is that we (the Muslims) need to take up religious beliefs and try to rationalize them. Take interest in it as we take interest in other subjects like arts or science. Once we are free from the ‘helping hand’ of these clerics, difference will be eminent. Those who are hell-bent on feeding their clerics, claim that not everyone is the same, it might be true, but they are teaching from the same books. There might be nothing wrong with these clerics but, I for once never met a cleric who knew what Andromeda is, or what was Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The holy scriptures are filled with scientific knowledge if read with a clear mind and pondered upon. But these (self-proclaimed) clerics fail to understand that, and in turn preach the same to the young ones. Religion is something which is personal to every individual, it has been stolen from the Muslims and controlled by these clerics. History has taught us that religion has been the basic attribute of all civilizations. When religion is no longer in ones discipline, then there is no stopping to its use against them.

What “Mullah” want

Yesterday’s tragic incident, is nothing but a slap to the face of the nation. It wasn’t just a murder of a man, it was a murder of moral values given to us by Islam. It is not just the funeral of Shahbaz Bhatti, it is the funeral of Islamic principles, torn apart by the nation which claims to be the caretaker of this great religion. Every human, irrespective of their religion (except for many in Pakistan) has condemned this gruesome act of brutality. However, yet again, the clergy is quiet, none has come forward and condemned this heinous crime. Why? Because the killing machine called ‘Tehreek-e-Taaliban Pakistan” claims this murder in the name of the infamous, controversial blasphemy law.

I know, it came as a shock to me too. Not that the clergy failed condemn this act, but the fact that the atrocious Taliban are actually standing up for “rule of law”? There is a catch to this, they ONLY want to defend the blasphemy clauses while they are happy to break every other law in this country. All of a sudden, constitution is very important to them. Where is the mullah now? Are you happy ‘maulvi sahab’? Isn’t this what you really want? What else do we need to prove that this law is nothing but shame and misery towards Pakistan and the nation.

It is time to repeal this law once and for all, it has already claimed lives of many innocent people and have brought misery to others. Those who speak for it cannot bring forth a single piece of evidence neither from Holy Scriptures, nor from history. The facts they put forward are distorted and disgraceful, which have been proven over and over again. Yet the nation is unable to see through their disguise of ‘Holy men’, what deceiving and hypocritical beings they are.

Even if this incident doesn’t open our nation’s eyes, then I am afraid no Messiah is going to come for them. Pakistanis should understand the fact that these self-proclaimed religious scholars and these extremists, jihadist, ignorant and blood thirsty butchers (call them Al-Qaeda or Taliban) are one and the same. They have already hijacked our peaceful religion Islam and are using our beliefs against us, they want to rule the nation with fear and ignorance, that is what the Mullah want.

The worst creatures

atrocious

‘I blame the West’

“I blame the West”, time and again I see Pakistanis from ‘various’ sections (especially the clerics) uttering this, blaming the west for the current (humiliating) situation the Muslim world, especially Pakistan, is in. I strictly disagree with them. This mess is created by us alone, it is preposterous to hold any (foreign) force responsible for it. Make no mistake I love my country, I love my countrymen / countrywomen. But as a nation, we are not doing what needs to be done for our own betterment.

If we compare the ‘Western’ ethics with ours we will observe that our ‘national’ character has fallen behind not only in the race of material progress, but also moral and religious values too. They (the west) say religion plays no part in a nation’s progress, but the truth is, they have adopted our (religious) values which have propelled them from being barbarians, into what we see today as prosperous and progressive countries. Let’s examine some basics.

Cleanliness:

Islamic values tell us “cleanliness is half of faith“, as a nation, we are only left with half of our faith.  Our roads, our alleys, our water streams are all filled with garbage and filth. There is no mechanism, on individual level or on community level to address this issue. The nation is deprived of clean water, pollution of every kind is found in almost every city in Pakistan.

Abiding the laws:

Islam commands every Muslim to observe the laws of the country he/she is living in. In Pakistan however, ‘laws’ only apply on those who are deprived (i.e. living from hand to mouth). There is a famous saying, ‘a nation’s character can be observed by observing its traffic’. There is a majority in Pakistan who completely disregard the traffic laws, not only the vehicle owners, even the cyclists and the pedestrians. Our nation, sadly is unaware of the road ethics which are observed in the developed countries.

Traffic is just a preview of a common Pakistani’s lawlessness. Corruption is a widespread disease in the country, majority from the President of the country, to the most low ranked clerk in an office, everyone is involved in some sort of corruption. Often, no work is done until and unless some sort of  ‘offering’ is made.  Ironic is the fact that the same is true for offices responsible for law enforcement.

Unfair & Unforgiving:

Yes, unfairness, a common trait we ignore in ourselves. Nothing in our country (not even the air we breath) is pure, adulteration in various edibles (even medicine) is overlooked by the common man (even the consumer, who frankly have no other choice as an average man). Everyone wants to make money ‘by hook or by crook’, how can there be fairness in such environment.

Most alarming is the fact that we are vengeful and unforgiving. It is very troubling to know that over a hundred thousand judicial cases are still pending in courts countrywide. Even more shocking is to know that many of these cases, have been passed down from generations. How does a nation progress when it can’t even resolve conflict between them in a given time?!

Islam teaches us fairness, forgiveness and honesty, but as a nation, I am afraid to say we have lost it. Interesting to note is the fact that none of the (so-called) clerics and religious scholars are addressing this issue. They are the ones to guide the nation in the light of this great religion, rather they are leading it into a ditch of ignorance and darkness. They ‘use’ the name of Islam, they fail to ‘understand’ it.

Literacy:

“Seek education, even if you have to travel to China (from Arabia)”, this is how much the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) emphasized on education. Clerics misunderstand the concept put forward by the Prophet and confuse that He was asking Muslims to get ‘religious’ education. While it is clearly not the case, there wasn’t any Islam in China at that time? History confirms that at that time (during the mid first century A.D.), Chinese were involved in researches including, aerospace, astronomy, physics and chemistry.

In our country, education is treated as a ‘business service’, there are scores of schools in every small town, different types of education. Tragically, everyone gets education based on their wealth, which has divided the country through generations. None of our universities is even in the top 100 in the world.

The saddest part is, this nation doesn’t even celebrate its most literate person, ‘Professor Dr. Muhammad Abd-us-Salam’, who went through this education system to produce his masterpiece which was ‘Electro-Weak’ theory. I bet, no average Pakistani can tell a single postulate of his theory. He won the Nobel price in Physics for his accomplishments, while his work isn’t even mentioned in our schools and colleges. He was victimized for being a member of a minority sect. Today, the United Nations is a proud owner of his scientific research institute in Italy (which according to him, he wanted to build here in Pakistan).

Conclusion:

I believe if our nation starts embracing its religion (in its pure form), Pakistan can leave behind every developed country in the world in every field. Its time the nation understood, that they are being used, played by some interest groups, who are ‘hijacking’ their religion for their own benefits. And to those who blame the west, I blame you, I blame me, I blame every citizen of Pakistan, for where Pakistan is today. Change yourself, change Pakistan.

اسلام اور توہین رسالت کا قانون

Some of my friends asked me to write my posts about blasphemy law in urdu language, so I am posting this summarized version of all my posts about blasphemy law in urdu.

(click on the image to enlarge)

Make hay while the sun shines

The sun is shining on the (so called) clerics of Pakistan. Since the infamous murder of the ex-governor of Punjab, it has been a power show for them on the streets of every major Pakistani city. Every major religious group is involved in either protesting or striking. Their claim, stop amendment in the controversial blasphemy law. The government on the other hand has been repeatedly saying that it is not going to amend the law at all, yet the strikes and progressions continue, shutting down markets, schools and colleges in the city.

I fail to understand this, coming from the ones who claim to be religious and tolerant. Not only are they disrupting daily life in those areas, some of the legally banned organizations have joined their progressions and are active again. Shockingly, neither of the (so called) religious leader notice it nor they condemn their participation. Their followers, as always, illiterate and ignorant of their surroundings.

Rally against amendments

courtesy "The News Pakistan"

These (so called) clerics are ripping Islamic values apart by disturbing daily lives of thousands of people living in the city. Many people who live on daily wages are unable to go out for work, children are being deprived of education, yet no one is asking these clerics, are these actions ‘Islamic’? The nation is failing to understand the fact that Islam is being maligned by these (so called) clerics. They are ‘too busy’ expressing their emotions over the ‘intent’ of amendment in blasphemy laws which time and again have been clarified by the government.

Pakistan is already going through a rough period, inflation is rising, employment is drying up, murders are common, robberies are widespread, number of rape cases is increasing but they are non-issues to the clergy, which should be leading the standards of morals in any society. Sadly they are busy making hay while the sun shines.

Again in the end I will quote the same prophecy I quote every time I speak of the (so called) clergy.

The Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) told us 1400 year ago:

“There will be a decline in religious faith and nothing would be left of Islam except its name and nothing would be left of the Holy Qura’an except its text. Mosques though full of worshipers will be empty of guidance. The religious scholars will be the worst creation under the canopy of Heaven”.

(Mishkat-ul Masabih, p.88 & Kanaz-ul Ummal, vol.6 p.43).

If this is not that time, then I don’t know what is going to be worst than this.

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