On January 4, 2011 Salmaan Taseer was murdered — for allegedly committing blasphemy — by a man not qualified by law to make such an allegation, but instigated by all those elements of society who believe themselves to be the authority on the subject.
Soon afterwards I, along with 21 MNAs from various parties, moved a resolution on the floor of the National Assembly stating in unequivocal terms that we condemned this murder; that we were not willing to accept the polarisation of society on the subject; that religious decision making had been delegated to clerics in the past and we would not allow this in future; and that we would protect the Quaid’s Pakistan, Islam and our constitution.
Pakistan stands at a truly explosive crossroads, where to condemn this murder is to get labelled as a liberal and liable for causing bloodshed between the two sides. To avoid civil war, some measures are required. Firstly, Pakistan has to recognise that new laws (without touching the blasphemy law) have to be made to stop the blasphemy law’s misuse. Let us arrive at this consensus position which both sides have shown willingness to accept. Let us not polarise society further. It is clear that, for many, the option to amend will be perceived as a blasphemous act in itself.
Secondly, Pakistan has to accept that fear is not the way Islam was spread and is not the way Islam can be protected. Islam will be protected with love. And we will protect it ourselves. We love the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and will not allow any blasphemous act to be committed. Nor will we allow his basic teachings on protecting minorities to be violated. Nor will we allow blasphemy on any other faith to take place. And nor will we allow fatwas to be given by those not qualified to do so.
The only way to achieve this level of balance and tolerance is to spread education on the subject by involving international Muslim centres of excellence. We need backup support by our Muslim brethren and religious scholars who seem to be keeping silent on this issue like most of our own political elite. They need to establish rules and regulations regarding fatwas so that no one takes the law into their hands.
We also need to wake up to another reality. How many places of worship have been attacked in the last three months alone? Only once our memories regarding this are fresh will we decide to defend our religion, which does not allow any place of worship to be attacked. To list a few, on December 16 last year, a muharram procession passing through Yadgar Chowk in Peshawar was attacked; earlier that same month, three children were killed at an attack targeting an imambargah in Fata and in November, as many as 68 people were killed when mosques near Peshawar were attacked.
The bottom line is that we need religious tolerance and consensus on many issues. The liberals and the religious scholars, themselves divided over many issues, need to sit together and arrive at common positions with the help of international Muslim centres of excellence. It is only when we educate ourselves that we can dream of educating the masses.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2011.