Blasphemy laws: Religious right flexes its muscles

Published: January 1, 2011

Activists of Fundemental Rights Commission chant slogans against amendment in blasphemy laws during a protest demonstration at Hyder Chowk in Hyderabad on Friday December 31, 2010. PHOTO: PPI

Activists of Sunni Ittehad Council take part in a demonstration against an amendment in blasphemy laws on MA Jinnah road, Karachi. PHOTO: ONLINE Activists of Fundemental Rights Commission chant slogans against amendment in blasphemy laws during a protest demonstration at Hyder Chowk in Hyderabad on Friday December 31, 2010. PHOTO: PPI

KARACHI: A crippling strike shut down businesses and schools and derailed transport services across the country on Friday as religious parties offered their stoutest defence yet of the blasphemy laws. Despite the government’s firm assurances that the law would remain unchanged, leaders of the religious parties were determined to show just how much they opposed such a change.

On Thursday, the State Minister for Information Samsam Bokhari ruled out the possibility of any change in the law. “We will start a civil disobedience movement if the government makes any amendment to the law,” said Sunni Ittehad Council chairman Sahibzada Fazal Karim.

Analysts say the strike has more to do with politics than religion. “The government right now is in crisis and these religious parties are pressurising the government by playing with public sentiments,” political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi told Reuters. Critics say the law is used to persecute religious minorities, fan religious extremism and settle personal scores.

In Karachi shopping centres, colleges and universities were closed and examinations scheduled for Friday were postponed.

President of the local transport association in Karachi, Irshad Bokhari, said public transport would remain off the road in response to the strike call. Chairman of Karachi Traders Unity, Atiq Mir said: “All markets and business centres are closed because the protection of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) honour is supreme to us.” A joint press conference was also held by more than 30 religious parties belonging to different sects at Idara-e-Noor-e-Haq here.

Speaking at the occasion, Tahfuz-e Namoos-e-Risalat convenor Abdul Khair Muhammad Zubair said Pakistan came into being in the name of Islam and no one would be allowed to amend the law. Zubair said the government, its ministers and parliamentarians should avoid talking on the issue. He called for hanging those who commit blasphemy and demanded action to be taken against the Punjab governor, who had called the blasphemy law a smear on the constitution.

Zubair said that a phased plan had been devised as part of their struggle. The first phase was launched on December 24. “The second event is the strike, but the third event, which is the most important, will be a large public gathering in Karachi on January 9 at MA Jinnah Road. “Thousands of people will gather to express their love for Islam and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),” he said.

A strike was also observed in other parts of the province including Sukkur, Rohri, Pano Aqil, Ghotki, Mirpur Mathelo, Daharki and Jacobabad among others.

In Islamabad, hundreds of supporters of Tehreek-i-Tahafuz-i-Namoos-i-Risalat (TTNS) rallied amid a complete shutter down in the twin cities to demonstrate their ‘pledge’ against attempts to amend blasphemy laws. Leading a rally held in Rawalpindi, General Secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam – Fazl Maulana Ghafoor Haideri threatened of more protests and even a ‘long march and civil disobedience if the government attempted any amendments in the blasphemy laws’.

Protesters demanded an end to foreign intervention in the country’s internal affairs at rallies in Lahore. Protests were taken out from offices of trade associations after Friday prayers. Two of the major rallies were held at The Mall and Ichhra Chowk on Ferozepur Road. The rally at The Mall totalled close to 500 people, while the one on Ferozepur Road brought out about 200 people.

A complete shutter down was observed in many areas of Balochistan. The Jamiat-Ulema Islam (Ideology) organised a rally and held a demonstration in Mezan Chowk in Quetta, criticising the government’s intention to amend the blasphemy law.

WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES

Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2011.

Reader Comments (11)

  • Disco Molvi
    Jan 1, 2011 - 11:43AM

    Atiq Mir said: “All markets and business centres are closed because the protection of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) honour is supreme to us.”
    In reality, the markets and business centers were closed because he who had not done so would’ve been labeled a blasphemer himself.
    Strange that when Non religious parties call upon a shutter down strike, these mullahs call Ghundagardi, stealing the livelihood of daily wagers but when done by these very mullahs its becomes Deendaari.Recommend

  • Jan 1, 2011 - 1:05PM

    Government must take lesson from this trick, and did not amendment any in blasphemy laws.Recommend

  • Jan 1, 2011 - 1:33PM

    The only thing these fanatics can offer humanity is death and destruction. The blasphemy laws must be modified or repealed for the sake of Pakistan’s future as a humane nation.Recommend

  • Jan 1, 2011 - 1:36PM

    A nation is not necessarily just when it caters to the whims of the majority. It become just when the tiniest of the minorities is protected from the whims of the majority.

    In the name of the Merciful God of the Mercy to the Worlds (saw) modify or repeal the blasphemy laws.Recommend

  • Ahmad
    Jan 1, 2011 - 1:38PM

    This is religious totalitarianism.This is really sick. Recommend

  • abullah
    Jan 1, 2011 - 1:41PM

    these mullahs sould be kept behind the bars they av destroyed the image of islam and pakistan and r the biggest hypocites they only speak wen it hurts them….
    MMA remained quite when a ppp politician in balochistan burried a girl alive
    JUI-F did not quit coalition 4 drone attacks
    no maulvi did put case against taliban 4 misrepresenting islam
    they all use islam 4 getting votes and they do nothing for the education

    all they know is how to criticise and sleep and gain weight Recommend

  • AM
    Jan 1, 2011 - 4:05PM

    @Abdullah…totally agree with you. I think we should go one step further and ban all so-called ‘religious parties.’ This would teach them a befitting lessonRecommend

  • maitre
    Jan 1, 2011 - 6:02PM

    @Liaqat Ali, I am afraid that you have any islamic faiths’ articles knowledge. Mullahs or not Mullahs, Allah Almighty ordains every follower of Islamic faith to respect and assist Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), read surat al Fatha and Hujraat (48-49). These Mullahs are not an obstacle in the path of development (some of them might have embazelled lot of funds yet they are part of the corrupt society), they were never given (elected) to govern. The bad luck of this country is ‘the previous and present politicians’ lot who have accumulated ‘billions of dollars or rupees’ in shape of ‘perks’ and ‘written off debts’ that a common man pile with his blood. If only we had some sincere bunch of people, we could have matched many developed states. Look at U.A.E, where was it a few decades ago? Now its the business hub of the Middle east and Asia. Don’t be apologetic for being Muslim; the people or communities you aspire are do have black sheeps in their ranks. they are no better human beings, you do not know their inside out. Just wake up and think positive! Recommend

  • Anoop
    Jan 1, 2011 - 7:16PM

    This law is here to stay. Even the Constitution allows such a bigoted law.Recommend

  • Wasif M. Khan
    Jan 1, 2011 - 8:41PM

    Shame on all of us for tolerating these enemies of Islam in our midst. The Prophet (peace be upon him) would himself feel nothing but revulsion for these hate mongerers who us his name to kill and maim. Sadly, we will not find the equivalent of a Mustafa Kemal Pasha, Ataturk, who can whip these scoundrels into shape…dead or alive.Recommend

  • Ashutosh
    Jan 1, 2011 - 11:14PM

    Is it alright to give a “pat down” to a Pakistani or imposing restrictions on activities that can be called anti-Pakistani or anti-Islamic or what you people prefer to call Islamophobia ?

    The support that the Pakistanis are showing for blasphemy law only indicates that the world is extremely soft on Pakistanis or Muslims … after all it is just a pat down or restricting burka .. not a DEATH SENTENCE .. Recommend

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