Mob madness

Published: March 10, 2013
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An angry demonstrator burns furniture during a protest in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore March 9, 2013.

An angry demonstrator burns furniture during a protest in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore March 9, 2013.

Each time an incident of violence against a minority community takes place, we think things cannot get any worse. But they do; we see acts of still greater insanity, still greater brutality — leaving us only to wonder what will come next, who will be targeted and as the head of the New York-based Human Rights Watch has said, when the frenzied mobs will come for us. It is clear we are fast approaching the point where none of us are safe in a land where extremists rule and hatred has overtaken reason.

The happenings at Joseph Colony, at Badami Bagh in Lahore, are hard to even imagine as part of a horror film. Yet they took place in real life. On March 8, a Christian sanitation worker, Sawan, was arrested after being accused of blasphemy a day or so earlier by a Muslim ‘friend’. Many local people say the accusation was false. On March 9, a mob of some 3,000 descended on the colony and torched at least 100 homes. Terrified Christian families fled, some had left immediately after the blasphemy accusation, fearful of what lay ahead.

The expected condemnations have come in. The Punjab chief minister has ordered a judicial inquiry and the restoration of destroyed houses. Around a 100 suspects have been arrested. And the optimistic can hope that this time things will be different. But in actual fact we all know this means very little. We have seen such actions before, and we have watched silently, motionlessly as the blasphemy issue gets more and more out of hand.

One reason for this is the fact that no one has been punished for past offences. No one has been convicted for the 2009 burning of Christian homes in a Gojra Colony, in which eight Christians were burnt alive. Yes, last year Rimsha Masih, the teenage Christian girl with Down’s Syndrome falsely accused by a cleric was set free, but hundreds of Christians who fled their village on Islamabad’s outskirts as a result of the accusation remain in a miserable camp, unable to return. This is then what our nation has come to – and salvation seems nowhere in sight.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Imran Khan
    Mar 10, 2013 - 10:09PM

    Where is the Government , the police is sleeping purposely the Police officials should be hanged
    The chief minister should resign

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  • s shah
    Mar 10, 2013 - 10:10PM

    Excellent and brave editorial. Thank you for saying what needs to be said. The blasphemy law needs to be repealed but none of the political parties have the guts to do so. Without a fundamental change in attitude, mobs will continue to feel morally justified in acting as judge jury and executioner combined.

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  • David
    Mar 10, 2013 - 10:29PM

    This incident in fact (albeit sadly) pretty much negates the very notion of Pakistan — an absurdity created on the premise that Muslims cannot be safe as a minority — and that only Muslims can “take care’ of other minorities! Well, have they? And forget the minorities for a minute… does even the majority feel secure any more in their own country? As the saying goes: As you sow, so shall you reap!

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  • Ejaaz
    Mar 10, 2013 - 11:27PM

    The Blasphemy law is a digression for what is taking place. The mob does not care whether there is a law against blasphemy or not. The mob will burn and kill if it is told blasphemy took place whether a law against it is on the books or not. That law is part of our Sharia inheritance. We have spent the last 65 years educating our kids to hate, and we have succeeded. The English medium elite of this land have kept their eyes and ears closed towards what was being taught to the children of the common man. No one cared when the hate in our text books was highlighted by anyone (just do a search and one finds news decades old on the topic). Repealing the blasphemy law would be a good first step, but we cannot even take that first step because the mob will not allow it. Salman Taseer’s son is still a captive of his kidnappers, and who is willing to take Salman’s position? The much hailed and garlanded assassin of Salman is still alive and still much admired by those who matter. So learn to live with the hate and hope the mob does not show up for you or your children one of these days. It will eventually.

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  • Avtar
    Mar 10, 2013 - 11:33PM

    The sad part is there is no light at the end of tunnel. The tunnel vision of extremists and their handlers (donators) have blinkers on. Blasphemy is a man-made law. No Islamic government has criticized the kind of carnage taking place here. Hardly any politicians are talking about curtailing this madness. I guess the police is busy protecting the politicians so that they can sleep safely at home.

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  • cautious
    Mar 11, 2013 - 1:07AM

    The sad fact is that there will be no justice for these victims – no mass protest by the Muslim community to defend minorities – and lip service from politicians who will use this tragedy to further their own ambitions while never broaching the subject of eliminating the blasphemy law. Whether you like it or not this tragedy isn’t unique and it has become the face of Pakistan – just one more reason why the rest of the World ranks you lower than N Korea.

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  • lololol
    Mar 11, 2013 - 2:54AM

    @ s shah, why don’t you show guts and take to the streets against blasphemy laws?

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  • gp65
    Mar 11, 2013 - 4:39AM

    @Ejaaz: Brilliant post. Agree 100% with it.
    You said :
    “Repealing the blasphemy law would be a good first step, but we cannot even take that first step because the mob will not allow it. ”
    I would like to add to it. Forget repealing the law, even introducing a bill to reform the implementation of the law (as done by Sherry Rehman) itself invites a charge of blasphemy that the Pakistani court actually accepts.

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  • truthbetold
    Mar 11, 2013 - 10:56AM

    @gp65:

    “@Ejaaz: Brilliant post. Agree 100% with it.
    You said :
    “Repealing the blasphemy law would be a good first step, but we cannot even take that first step because the mob will not allow it. ”
    I would like to add to it. Forget repealing the law, even introducing a bill to reform the implementation of the law (as done by Sherry Rehman) itself invites a charge of blasphemy that the Pakistani court actually accepts. “

    The blasphemy laws are only symptoms and effects of the fundamental problem. The real cure and answer lies in the underlying ideology. Suggestions for reformation of blasphemy laws are cop-outs and excuses for the fundamental issue.

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  • Westerner
    Mar 11, 2013 - 4:13PM

    @Ejaaz

    You hit the nail on the head with your post. Good to see that are still people, despite the extreme religious environment, who exercise their ability to reason and can identify the nub of the problem.

    @truthbetold

    What is really disturbing is that these people who are doing this, do NOT consider themselves to be extreme. They really believe this is what should happen.
    It is the unfathomable mindset. It will take probably decades to change the the mindset. I don’t see that happening soon. It begins with education and upbringing. If a child is learned that anything non-Muslim is offensive to him, that the outside world is the enemy, that is after to get him, abolishing or changing a law will not fade away his belief. He will just take matter in his own hands, hence the matter of law and order isn’t really the issue.

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