In the name of religion

Published: November 24, 2014
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The writer is a human rights activists and director of the Gender Studies Center. She tweets @drfarzanabari

The writer is a human rights activists and director of the Gender Studies Center. She tweets @drfarzanabari

The most horrifying of incidents, of a mob lynching and incinerating the bodies of a Christian couple accused of committing blasphemy, deeply shocked and saddened the nation. This was followed by another heart-breaking incident of rape and killing of a six-year-old child from the Hazara community in Quetta. In another incident, a man accused of blasphemy in prison was shot at by a prison guard, who was apparently under the ideological influence of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. In addition, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the Wagah border, killing around 60 people and injuring many. Most of these crimes against humanity were committed by invoking religion as a pretext.

Therefore, it is imperative that these incidents of brutality should not be seen and condemned as isolated incidents. Such violence and vigilantism is the result of the jihadist policy that the state has followed. A radicalised mindset has been systematically created and supported in order to pursue political interests within the country and in the region. Thus, the state is equally responsible for this mob mentality and the violation of human rights in Pakistan.

We are now trapped. The monstrosity that was funded for decades is now challenging the state’s writ. Increasing intolerance in society is posing a serious existential threat to minority communities.

All such communities across Pakistan are at risk, due to increasing militancy and extremism, however, the nature of their oppression varies from area to area. They live in constant fear. Their lives and properties are often threatened. Due to growing intolerance and the inability of the government to protect them, they are often forced to leave the country. The size of the non-Muslim population at the time of independence was little over 15 per cent, which has now been reduced to just three per cent.

Forced conversions, and kidnapping of Hindu girls and marrying them to Muslim men forcibly are common in Sindh. The Hindu community faces backlash from the Muslim majority in case of any incident of discrimination that takes place in India against Muslims. The demolition of the Babri Masjid led to the burning and destruction of Hindu temples in Pakistan. The patriotism of non-Muslims is often doubted. According to Dr Ramesh Kumar, a PML-N legislator, 5,000 Hindus are migrating from Pakistan on a daily basis.

Similarly, the Christian community often comes under attack through accusations of having committed blasphemy, which leads to mob violence, not only against the accused, but the entire Christian community. Shantinagar, Gojra and Joseph Colony incidents are examples of this.

The Ahmadi community is also persecuted. Hate campaigns by extremists have been carried out through speeches and hate literature, including pamphlets, stickers, wall-chalkings. People are incited to kill Ahamdis and destroy their places of worship. They live in a constant state of fear and are not safe even in death as there have been cases of their graves being desecrated.

Such violence does not only targets non-Muslim Pakistanis. Sectarian outfits that operate under state patronage with complete impunity, like the Lashkar-e-Jahangvi, have been involved in the killings of Hazaras. Despite claiming responsibility of staging attacks on Hazaras, no action has been taken against them.

What makes Pakistan the most dangerous place for minorities is the inability and unwillingness of the state to punish the culprits. A culture of impunity exists for those engaged in mob violence, vigilantism, accusing and killing people for committing blasphemy even if they are found innocent after court proceedings. The pseudo-concern shown by the government through paying monetary compensation to the families of deceased is meaningless. It needs to take a holistic approach and institute substantive measure to stop this madness.

First of all, the state must treat all its citizens as equals, irrespective of their religious affiliation. The government should take the initiative by moving a bill in parliament to remove all constitutional provisions that discriminate against non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan. Secondly, it should encourage the Council of Islamic Ideology to work with parliament in ensuring that there is no scope left for misusing the blasphemy law. It should also ban and take stern action against all those sectarian organisations that are promoting hatred and inciting violence.

The government needs to strictly monitor sermons given in religious congregations in mosques and elsewhere, and should take firm action against those promoting violence through them. All madrassas should be under the control of the provincial education departments and ministries. Hate material against minorities should be removed from the curriculum and respect for all world religions should be promoted in our textbooks.

Currently, 1,100 cases of blasphemy are registered in the country, the majority of them against Muslims. All these cases should be decided within the next six months and those found innocent must be released. Speedy justice and severe punishment must be given to those who were involved in mob violence in Joseph Colony and in the Kot Radha Kishan incidents. This could help give a sense of security to minorities. The government must compensate the victims of mob violence and beef up security in areas where minorities reside in large numbers. If it wants to show the people in the country and abroad that it is serious in protecting the rights of minorities, it must take steps to eliminate violence perpetrated in the name of religion and institute measures to alter the radical mindset of our society.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Parvez
    Nov 24, 2014 - 11:37PM

    On the issue of blasphemy, to reduce the misuse of this law, the accuser must be awarded the same punishment as the alleged blasphemer, if it is found to be a false accusation. This principle has been accepted by many learned and sensible ulema on TV talk shows……..why does the government still drag its feet in making this a reality.

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  • 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Nov 25, 2014 - 12:25AM

    A 12 yr old takes a monumentous decision to ‘change her religion and marry an older man from her new religion’ – and no one bats an eyelid! After all – that’s what 12 year olds do, make life changing decisions! Pakistan is blessed with some very precocious pre-teens.

    I can’t even imagine the plight of the poor parents – who lost their daughter! There have been many pre-teens/teens before her, there will be many who will “do this” after her.

    Ironic that a country created based on the fears of ‘minority’ is now meting out the same treatment to its ‘minorities’ which that original minority, now in the majority, feared!!

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  • Islam?
    Nov 25, 2014 - 12:54AM

    In the real sense Islam means Peace and Peace for all who living in the circle of it existence. While in the countries like Pakistan where Islam is just accepted by as gift or heritable religion or faith without any self study or understanding misusing its name. Most of the Pakistani societies are basically illiterate by faith. They don’t know or lightly read or understand Islam and that’s why even after being claimed as Muslim country it has been facing dozen of social, economical and finical problems. The day to day killing, exploitation, race for power, power in very few hands, unequal distribution of rights and resources, humiliation and injustices and even the biggest indicator of all such injustices called terrorism exist here in Pakistan. It meaning that if there is no hopes for justice from any source either society and Government then the people having no choice but find they way own. Hence is best indicator of true faith and Islam of a society and country is the state of peace or stability of peace. Alternatively if there is higher rate of crime every day, new crisis, instability, terrorism, insecurity and violations means the system exists there is un-Islamic and just based on survival of the fastest. So the social scientist and religious scholars real need to understand and let the people know or understand the real sense of Islam; peace and peace for all.

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  • Rex Minor
    Nov 25, 2014 - 5:51AM

    2nd attempt:

    Perhaps the author of the article means well when she accuses the State involvement in the crimes because of complacency but then writes;
    The government needs to strictly monitor sermons given in religious congregations in mosques and elsewhere, and should take firm action against those promoting violence through them. All madrassas should be under the control of the provincial education departments and ministries. Hate material against minorities should be removed from the curriculum and respect for all world religions should be promoted in our textbooks.
    This is the recipee for a totalitarian regime and not of a democratic order. Why does she ignore the sufferings of the majority including the displacement of million plus from KPK and ruthless killirng of Baluchis, all by the strong military which has the greatest number of so called religious fanatics?

    Rex Minor

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  • Nov 25, 2014 - 6:58AM

    Very good article Doctor.

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  • MSS
    Nov 25, 2014 - 1:52PM

    A very praiseworthy article.
    A state founded solely on religion will have such problems. Partition should have been better organised.

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  • Pradeep
    Nov 25, 2014 - 4:24PM

    I was cheering for you all the way till you said…

    “All these cases should be decided within the next six months and those found innocent must be released.”

    So you too are of the opinion that the Blasphemy law is good but implementation is bad. Sorry but this glossing over the indigestible parts of your country’s problems is not the best way to solve them.

    Before anyone says anything about India’s caste problems, yes it is evil. I unequivocally condemn it. I support severe punishment of untouchability. I do not practice it. I think casteism is veiled racism (whether they are different races is another discussion altogether)

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  • Komal S
    Nov 25, 2014 - 6:42PM

    Author says “The demolition of the Babri Masjid led to the burning and destruction of Hindu temples in Pakistan”

    Author makes it believe that Hindu temples were not targeted until the Babri masjid incident. The fact is targeting minority institution was/is a routine affair in Pakistan and Babri Masjid incident was another excuse to go after them.

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  • Z H Hashmi
    Nov 25, 2014 - 8:05PM

    I have no words, no face to be a Muhammaden , to defend such brutal acts and shams. I wish I could live in pre Muhammadan era to hear , bear and live with up such barbaric crimes.I am even saddened if it is done in the name of Islam and My Mentor , our Teacher A’Aqa Hazrat Muhammad PBUH. Food , Water , Sleep , Sex and Shelter might be the individual basic needs, but for a society to breath and live Justice / Adal is the foremost need not the religion. Probably , what i believe it was the bedrock of the Muhammadan Society established in Medinah.

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  • Rex Minor
    Nov 25, 2014 - 9:58PM

    @Komal S:
    Why nitpick or you reckon that the destruction of mosques in India and attacks on temples in Pakistan are being carried out, out of love? You have a situation of ignorance in Pakistan about the supremecy of the divine religion of Islam and sheer Illetracy in neighbouring India which according to the UNO has the largest population of illetrates on this planet.. India has adopted the French constitution for their land whereas Pakistan is still struggling with the colonial structured institutions and laws, blesphamy being one of them. The forced sterilsation of women in India to control population overgrowth or use of sheer violence against christians and other non muslim citizens is not compatable with human rights, and cannot be condoned by any religion?

    Rex Minor

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  • Solomon2
    Nov 25, 2014 - 10:46PM

    “Sectarian outfits that operate under state patronage with complete impunity, like the Lashkar-e-Jahangvi, have been involved in the killings of Hazaras. Despite claiming responsibility of staging attacks on Hazaras, no action has been taken against them.”

    Why don’t Pakistanis take government into their own hands rather than appeal to ineffective and uninterested leadership? Don’t ask anyone for permission, just establish democratic local governance and law enforcement at the “town hall” local level. That is the true foundation of American democracy, not expectations that some distant leadership will save everybody from the perils of war and weather.

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  • Raj - USA
    Nov 26, 2014 - 12:06AM

    @Rex Minor:
    It is not forced sterilizations but sterilizations by offering inducements. The negligence is highly condemnable and the guilty punished severely. Christians everywhere offer inducements to others to convert to Christianity and I don’t have a problem with it, as long as they do not do it by talking bad of other religions or by preaching hate for other religions and do it solely by preaching the virtues and strengths of their religion.

    Importantly you, and also this author has missed out and not touched on the most important point pertaining to the kidnap, forced conversion and marriage of the 12 year old hindu girl. This kidnaped girl was brought to the court. the courts instead of handing her over to her parents are trying to find a way to hand her over to her kidnapers by detaining her in a shelter for over 35 days now to coerce and threaten her there and not allowing her parents to see or talk to her. The Government is facilitating the courts with its inaction.

    Question is: If muslims of Pakistan would accept the same for themselves if their girl was kidnaped, then recovered, only to be handed back over to her kidnaper by their own courts? Also the courts are themselves disobeying their own laws that prohibits child marriages and have not even charged anyone for this crime, let alone convicting and punishing.

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  • Rex Minor
    Nov 26, 2014 - 12:47AM

    @Solomon2:
    The true Ace in their land merican democracy sir, is now on stage in the town hall live, in Missouri townn. A young unarmed boy of 18 was cut down by the policeman from all white in the town which has the black majority. Th is nothing wrong with Pakistan democracy but it is the people who have not the nerve and courage to think independently not knowing the difference between the right and wrong.
    They dream of Moses to free them from the abyss and Soloman to bring justice in their land
    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Rex Minor
    Nov 26, 2014 - 2:53PM

    @Raj – USA:
    You live in a country which exist on racism; which houses more criminals in prison than the total number of criminals in European Union, twice the size of USA. Never mind about Pakistan which claims to be an Islamic republic like Egypt but practices militarised colonial laws. You have been preaching all along the use of military in Pakistan and now squawk about one or other action because the victim happens to be a hindu girl.
    Indian sterilisation is a forced and deliberate against women, the reports say and though started with men originaly but altered to avoid loss of electorates for the political parties. You reckon that the inducement of death risk with 25 dollars compensation is a humane act. This must be condemned by the civilised world, and so should be the inhuman actions in Pakistan. They must not be condoned but it is the fault of the author to ignore the sufferings and casualty of the majority in Pakistan which are not related to religion.

    Rex Minor

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  • Allah_Rukha
    Nov 27, 2014 - 8:24PM

    @Rex Minor:
    The majority of casualties in Pakistan are based upon religion, you cannot refute that, at least in the post 9/11 world.

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  • Rex Minor
    Nov 27, 2014 - 11:02PM

    @Allah_Rukha:
    This is your perception not the truth; no different than the white.discrimination against the coloured in the USA because a single young unarmed couloured boy was gunned down by the white policeman in Ferguson. Even the couloured President of the USA complains about white discrimination against the blacks despite the fact that most white votes brought him in the office. What about the suffering majority in Pakistan, and jounalists being gunned down in the country?

    Rex Minor

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