Save Burma, let Pakistan burn

Social networks are crowded with pictures, pleas and appeals for the Burmese Muslims caught in the midst of a terrible conflict with the Buddhist majority in Burma. The tales and pictures (most of which are fake though) being used on social media are gut-wrenching and horrifying. Amnesty international has accused the security forces and ethnic majority of Rakhine Buddhists for the violence being perpetrated in the north. It should be well-known that this conflict is purely ethnic and has nothing at all to do with religion. Loss of life (in any way or form) is condemnable and all measures should be taken, to bring these horrific crimes against humanity to an end.

As with everything remotely related to Muslim persecution, my Pakistani (Muslim) friends are at the forefront of the campaign to ensure that the news reaches everyone. They consider this their ‘religious duty’ to make sure every Muslims is actively participating in spreading the news of such violence. Words being used to describe the acts of the Rakhine Buddhists are “shameful”, “heinous”, “criminal”, “in-humane” etc. Just yesterday I noticed a poster where it was claimed that Muslims aren’t allowed to say “Azaan” and that this was “cruel in-justice”. I cannot say it is true but it did sadden me, to think that an individual is being deprived of his most basic religious activity.

But then, it hit me, Burma’s situation is not that different from Pakistan. The majority Muslims in this country impose on (whatever) minority (is left) in this country. Christians, Hindus and other minority religions are being persecuted all the time. Even minority Muslim sects like the Shia sect is not safe from this persecution. They are killed upon identification, Christians and Hindus are forced to give up their religious belief and convert. Those who do and revert back are killed again. Ahmadis are barred from praying, their places of worship (which cannot be dubbed as mosques according to the constitution) are being demolished. They, and other minorities, even some Muslim sects are dubbed ‘wajib-ul-qatl’ (obligated to be killed) and yet the same Pakistani Muslims feel sorry when they find Muslims in the same situation?
hypocritical isn’t it?

In no way I am justifying the crimes against humanity in Burma. They have the rights of religious liberty and freedom of living and speech. But since when does a Pakistani Muslim care about it? Burma is not a Muslim state, if Pakistanis can legislate killing of people who believe in the freedom of speech, why are they outraged if another country uses something similar to it for Muslims? They celebrate when Mumtaz Qadri kills someone who have a different opinion on some issue, but they protest if the same thing happens in Burma. I hope they understand how it feels to be at the receiving end of this persecution which is deemed ‘HOLY’ by many. It isn’t that holy when it is brought upon them (or people from their clan).

The point of writing this is not to condemn the protests against these crimes being committed in Burma (they are to be condemned strongly), but to make my fellow Muslims understand that they are no different from these Burmese military men or the Buddhist majority, imposing their will on the helpless and exposed minority. I hope this might help them understand.

The deadly blasphemy law claims another victim

Our Minister for minorities Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated today in Islamabad. Another victim goes down to the deadly blasphemy laws. Interestingly, there are reports of pamphlets seen by the crime scene which were ‘allegedly’ distributed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or ‘Al-Qaeda’, claiming who ever fiddles with the blasphemy law will be punished.

It made me wonder, since when does ‘Al-Qaeda’ and the TTP care about the constitution? Even if they do, does our constitution have this one article only? It is amazing to note that these law breakers stand for something in the constitution too. Goes to show what kind of people ‘defend’ the blasphemy laws.

An apology letter for Quaid-e-Azam on his 134th Birthday

Dearest Father of the nation,

Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah

May your soul rest in peace. Today on your 134th birthday, I wish I could give you something. I know what you wanted from your nation, but I am sorry we as a nation have let you down. I know we didn’t live up to your expectations as much. I understand, the Pakistan today isn’t what you dreamed of. I am sorry about that.

I am sorry we made corrupt people as our leaders, who robbed us and took everything away. I am sorry we didn’t find any leader like you in the past 62 years, so we had to settle for the feudal ones. I am sorry for the fact that we failed to ensure security of each and every individual living here. I am sorry we failed to preserve the rights of the minorities, instead we persecuted them. I am sorry we don’t have any Pakistanis here, but we do have Sindhis, Punjabis, Pushtoons, Saraikis, Baluchis, Mahajirs etc. I am sorry we don’t have any Muslims here either, but we do have Sunnis, Shias, Deobandis, Barhelvis etc. I am sorry we failed to develop like India or China, but the good thing is (I hope you will be thrilled to hear that) we still have IMF supporting us.

I am sorry we cannot reduce poverty, hunger, illiteracy and lawlessness because we have to spend the money we have on our leaders, parliamentarians and the military. I am sorry we let our talented youth go to waste due to our ignorance. I am sorry we let the illiterate religious leaders use us for their interest, sorry that we have to follow those who called you an infidel and Pakistan an abomination. I am sorry no place of worship is safe here and I am dearly sorry that we are now listed among the top 10 dangerous countries in the world. I am sorry that this country which was meant to be the fort of Islam, is a disgrace to the very cause.

Dear Quaid-e-Azam, on your 134th birthday, I am sorry we are even worst than what we were, back when you gave us the most cherished gift of all, ‘freedom’.

I am sorry.

Pakistan and the dehumanisation of minorities – Ishtiaq Ahmed

(The following article was written by Ishtiaq Ahmed, it was published in Daily times on 7th December 2010.)
How do we explain that despite several Sufi shrines being targeted by suicide bombers, the Ahle Sunnat ulema are demanding that Aasia Bibi should be executed? How can the Ahle Sunnat ignore that fact that they themselves are on the hit list of extremists who consider them guilty of crimes no less serious than blasphemy?

Professor Brij Narain was a famous Lahore-born academic whose books on economics were on the required reading list of the curricula of pre-partition universities. Enamoured by Jinnah’s English lifestyle and mannerism and himself strongly secular and idealistic, Brij Narain underestimated the morbid impact of the rabidly anti-Hindu and anti-Sikh rhetoric of the 1945-46 election campaign in Punjab. He developed a strong set of arguments to prove that Pakistan was economically feasible and viable. When partition took place in mid-August 1947 and Lahore was burning, he continued to believe that Hindus like him could be Pakistanis like any other community. A mob arrived at his door and mercilessly killed him notwithstanding his pleas that he supported Pakistan.

Miss Ralia Ram was a Lahore-born Christian lady who wrote letter after letter to Quaid-e-Azam warning him about Congress machinations. She too believed in the righteousness of Pakistan. Her letters are easily accessible in the several volumes of the Jinnah Papers. Fortunately in 1947, Christians were not a target group. Many Hindus and Muslims saved their lives by faking a Christian identity. Both in Amritsar and in Kasur thousands of Muslim refugees received medical aid from Christian volunteers.

Even more interesting is the fact that the majority of Punjabi Christians supported the Muslim League’s case for Pakistan before the Punjab Boundary Commission. Their leader, S P Singha, argued that the Christians would rather have a united Punjab, but if Punjab were to be divided they could expect better treatment in Pakistan than in caste-ridden India. The leader of the Anglo-Indians Mr Gibbon informed the Punjab Boundary Commission that the Anglo-Indians were happy to be in Pakistan. They regarded Lahore and West Punjab as their homeland.

I have already mentioned in an earlier op-ed that the leadership of the Ahmediyya community was deeply worried about persecution in a sectarian Pakistan. However, just before the partition of India it was decided to support the Pakistan movement (Munir Report 1954: 196-7). Thereafter the Ahmedis put all their efforts behind the Muslim League’s campaign. Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, a leading member of the Ahmediyya community, presented the Muslim League case before the Punjab Boundary Commission with sterling competence. The counsel for the Congress Party, Mr Setalvad, could not restrain himself from publicly paying compliments to Zafarullah during the proceedings. In 1947, the Ahmedis were still included in government statistics among Muslims, and that alone had inflated the Muslim percentage of the Gurdaspur district to a bare majority of 51 percent.

All such stories sound unreal in the light of the Pakistan experience. The Hindus were naturally the first to flee from Pakistan. The next to exit were the Anglo-Indians. The Ahmedis started seeking refuge in the west in the 1980s. Only in Sindh a Hindu minority survived while in the rest of Pakistan mostly the poorest Christians stayed put because they had nowhere to go.

Ridiculing Sikhs as simpletons is a prejudice that still survives in Pakistani Punjab, but their leaders proved to be the most farsighted in anticipating the type of Pakistan that would emerge. In the second half of May 1947, the Sikh leaders met Jinnah in Delhi. Jinnah and Liaquat had come fully prepared to convince them to support the Pakistan demand. They told the Sikhs to write down whatever they wanted and it would be granted. The charm offensive, however, was too late in the day. Earlier, in March 1947, Sikh villages in the Rawalpindi, Attock and Jhelum districts had borne the brunt of mob attacks at the hands of Muslims. At least 2,000 Sikhs lost their lives.

No Muslim League leader, including Jinnah, issued a public statement condemning those attacks. I have looked in vain in the two main English-language newspapers of pre-partition Punjab, the Tribune and The Pakistan Times as well as in the Jinnah Papers for any evidence of the condemnation of that outrage. In the event, Hardit Sikh Malik, who acted as the spokesperson for the Sikhs told Jinnah that they could not risk their future on his promises; the day he is gone things would change. He was right.

I have always held the view that the anti-minority stance took birth at the time of the 1945-46-election campaign in the Muslim-majority provinces of north-western India. Once it was born, it assumed a life of its own. Only someone totally naive can believe that Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech was a magic mantra that could suffice to make it vanish. Already in early 1951, the ulema of all Sunni sub-sects — including the Barelvis — and the Ithna Ashari Shias had signed the 22-point Islamist agenda for an Islamic state prepared by Maulana Maududi. Gradually that agenda encroached on the constitutional and legal machinery, culminating in the Islamisation measures of General Ziaul Haq.

The mindset that such measures generated percolated all sections of society, with a few honourable exceptions. In the current situation, while President Zardari and Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer are willing to spare the life of the Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who most certainly has been wrongly framed on charges of blasphemy, federal Law Minister Babar Awan has made theatrical pronouncements in support of the draconian Blasphemy Law, thus undermining his own government. The legal fraternity remains badly divided. While the Lahore High Court has issued a stay order against the reprieve granted by the president, the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Ms Asma Jahangir has boldly criticised that decision. The confusion is absolute.

How do we explain that despite several Sufi shrines being targeted by suicide bombers the Ahle Sunnat ulema are demanding that Aasia Bibi should be executed? How can the Ahle Sunnat ignore that fact that they themselves are on the hit list of extremists who consider them guilty of crimes no less serious than blasphemy? The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is considered a ‘democratic, parliamentary’ party by some western academics. I have seen with my own eyes a doctoral thesis passed by the reputable Gothenburg University of Sweden in support of JI’s democratic credentials. Its leader, Syed Munnawar Hassan, has also demanded that Aasia Bibi should be put to death. That is the type of democracy the JI actually represents.

Can one seriously believe that all these people who are crying for the blood of a poor Christian woman are doing this for their love for Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)? Perhaps, but what a love!

The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University. He is also Honorary Senior Fellow of the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He can be reached at billumian@gmail.com

The Blasphemy law: (From being unIslamic to Islamic)

Pakistan is again in the spotlight internationally, due to a controversial death sentence against a Christian woman. The woman was accused of blasphemy last year and has been prison since. Just few weeks earlier she was charged with ‘blasphemy’ under the article 295 -c of the constitution of Pakistan. The only crime she committed was act out of anger upon her discrimination by her fellow workers. Yes, it will cost her, her life.

The blasphemy law has been on and off the discussion table for some time, since its ‘renewal’ in the mid 1980’s, it has disturbed lives of many Pakistani citizens, even Muslims. Many individuals and human rights activists have protested against it, even demanded its repeal, but the manipulative religion-political fractions of Pakistan have always enticed the ‘Muslim emotions’ on this issue. They claim it to be an ‘Islamic’ law. Lets take some time to see what is Islamic about it.

Background:

The blasphemy law was first constituted in medieval Britain. From the 16th century to the mid-19th century, blasphemy against the Church of England was held as an offense against common law. Blasphemy was also used as a legal instrument to persecute atheists, Unitarians, and others. The law was considered ‘Biblical’ in that era.

Introduction of the blasphemy law in Pakistan:

The blasphemy law was first introduced to the Pakistan Penal Code in 1860 by the British government as the means to protect the Muslim minority against the Hindu majority but offering all religions equal protection (Section 295). Before that, there was no blasphemy law in the sub-continent of India. Hence it is safe to say that the law was derived from the British version of the blasphemy law with minor changes to be applicable within the sub-continent.

Re-birth of blasphemy law:

After the division in 1947, this law came in as a heritage, though it went somewhere in the background. In 1977, however, the dictator General Zia-ul-Huq began a process of Islamising the Pakistani constitution (with his version of Islam).  In 1982, a presidential ordinance made defiling the Holy Qur’an punishable by life imprisonment (Section 295-A and B), whilst in 1991, General Zia made Sharia Law became the supreme law in Pakistan.

The death penalty:

Under pressure from religious extremists, the blasphemy law was again amended in 1986 to include defamation of the Holy Prophet, whether directly or indirectly, both in spoken and written form, as well as by way of impersonation (Section 295-C).  For the first time, blasphemy also carried the possibility of the death sentence.  In 1991, when the Federal Shariah Court rescinded the option of life imprisonment, the death penalty became an automatic punishment for anyone found guilty of blasphemy.

Repercussions:

After its re-activation, Pakistani courts were filled with cases of blasphemy, Muslims charging minorities, even other Muslims for blasphemy. For a Muslim, blasphemy is a very emotional subject, hence many used this loop-hole on their enemies, murders were carried out in broad day light and the victim was convicted of blasphemy, which shadowed the murderer with the support from the local clergy.

Conclusion:

Blasphemy law is an amenity provided by the state for anyone to settle their contentions. The law is man-made, derived from another intolerant imperial law not from the Holy Scriptures. Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion. Practice of such laws in an Islamic state and labeling them Islamic has hurt the cause of Islam and Pakistan.

FREE ISLAM FROM PAKISTAN (via IJQURESHI’S ThinkPad)

FREE ISLAM FROM PAKISTAN A nation was born in 1947 name Pakistan. It was created on the basis of 2 nation supposition Muslim and Hindus. Muslims of sub continent under the leadership Quaid-e-Azam liberated Pakistan from British Raj. Since 1956 this country ,that was formed in the name Islam doing injustice with Islam. Pakistan is the only country who has damaged and maligned Islam more than any other Islamic country of this world. In the land of Pure Muslims whether shia … Read More

via IJQURESHI'S ThinkPad

Another life to be claimed by the blasphemy law

The blasphemy law has been responsible for ‘legal’ murders and victimization in Pakistan for over two decades.

Yet another belonging to minority sentenced to death on account of ‘blasphemy’. A christian woman in Punjab will be put to death for having a different point of view about religion. Shamefully, none of the Pakistan media reported this incident because it is deemed too sensitive. More importantly, the sentence came from the judicial system, which one might think must consist of ‘broad minded’ and ‘highly literate’ intellectuals. I suppose that isn’t the case anymore. Read article.

Since 1986 this black law has claimed hundreds and thousands of lives in the name of ‘Islam’. Sadly, all the religious sectors (Muslims) in Pakistan are silent over the matter as emotions of the Muslims will be hurt. Even the liberal sectors of Pakistan are failing to comment on this because that itself will fall in the category of blasphemy. Cases like these have literally torn Pakistan’s image in the world. Pakistan is supposed to be a welfare state, yet in 2010, our laws are as primitive as were of barbarians in stone ages.

No wonder the international community has no respect for Pakistan, or its nationals. Trade is lost with foreign countries due to the human rights violations. How can we expect growth when we abuse the minorities to this extent, legalizing murders of minorities, while on the other hand we portray Pakistan to be a country where freedom of speech is welcomed. How can we say that Pakistan is a country where every ‘citizen’ has equal rights, security and protection.

This is not the Pakistan envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam, it is not what Allama Iqbal dreamt of. It is a country where its own citizens are treated as aliens. Incidents like these are ruining Pakistan’s reputation around the world. More importantly, the image of Islam gets ‘further’ deformed.

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