Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Will we see a reaction from the educated middle-class against blasphemy law in Pakistan?

If not now, it is not clear when. More and more cases are being registered under the blasphemy law in Pakistan - and the excuses are becoming flimsier and flimsier. Just in the past two months, we have the case of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death (yes, a capital punishment) under this hideous law, and then just to complete the mockery, a doctor was arrested after he threw away a business card of somebody named Muhammad (the doctor has now been released). One cannot make this stuff up. It would all be funny, if the consequences were not to tragic and pathetically sad. But then what can we expect when as part of the Pakistan passport application form, one has to declare, under oath, a segment of fellow Pakistanis, the Ahmadiyya sect, as non-Muslims (you can take a look at the application form here), or for that matter, when a host of a religious religious show sanctions the murder of Ahmadis (two murders followed the show) and gets to keep his job and his show.

In this context, what exactly is the level of shock to hear that the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, who was a vocal opponent of the blasphemy law, was gunned down today. There may have been other political reasons as well, but it seems that the killer mentioned the opposition to the blasphemy law as the motive.

Christians, Ahmadis, Shias, Hindus, Deobandis, Barelvis. If not for the religious affiliation, one can be identified and targeted for his or her ethnic identity: Pashtun, Punjabi, Muhajir (Haqiqi or Altaf), Sindhi, Baluchi. Being a Pakistani is not enough. Everybody is something else in Pakistan.

If there is ever a place which needs to repeatedly hear Pastor Martin Niemöller's words about the inaction of German intellectuals against the rise of Nazism, it is Pakistan - in the 21st century. Yes, these words have been overused for various causes, but they should still pack a punch with the level of intolerance we are seeing in Pakistan. You can replace your ethnic and/or religious affiliation at your own choosing: 


They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.


Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Here is a clip about Salman Taseer's murder:

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com

Also see Pakistaniat (Deadly Intolerance: Punjab Governor Salman Taseer Killed) and Faithworld (The Infliction of the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan)

2 comments:

Nameerah said...

Salman chachu, you'd be amazed by the large number of people here (not just mullahs, but university students and ordinary citizens) who are celebrating Taseer's death! So many are barring 'muslims' from going to his namaz-e-jinaza.
But on the other hand we have many people in Pakistan speaking against blasphemy law: in universities, in newspapers, in blogs, in talk shows. Educated middle-class is speaking up!

Salman Hameed said...

Well...this was exactly my point. What exactly is the educated middle-class thinking? It was great to see some real momentum in the lawyer's movement a few years back. But why don't we see a similar outrage for these type of killings and for demanding protection for minorities? This has to get to a broader level...

By the way, how is the coverage in Jang or Nawai Waqt?