Land of lunacy

Published: December 13, 2010
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Naushad Valiyani. PHOTO: FILE

Naushad Valiyani. PHOTO: FILE

Bias and what can only be described as absurdity is growing by leaps and bounds in our country. A doctor has been arrested in Hyderabad on charges of blasphemy. And what had Dr Naushad Valiyani done? He threw the visiting card of a sales representative, who visited his clinic, into the dustbin. The card included the common prefix ‘Muhammad’ ahead of the visitor’s name — as do thousands of other such cards. The doctor said he meant no offence and apologised to the sales rep, saying that he meant no malice and did not intend to hurt his religious feelings.

A senior police official in Hyderabad has been quoted as saying that the man who had felt slighted by the doctor’s action had agreed to withdraw the complaint, but was pressed by local religious leaders. And that is what led to the doctor being arrested. The fact that he belongs to a minority sect may have some bearing on this, given that the more rabid mullahs in society tend to see all sects other their own as based on heresy.

The situation has become a terrifying one. What has happened in Hyderabad suggests that the police are being guided not by law, reason and common sense but by the thug-like behaviour of the religious right and the extreme views held in Pakistan by many clerics who speak and act as if they are guardians of everyone else’s morality and religious feeling. The act committed by the doctor is one most of us would engage in without a second thought. Hundreds of such cards must be tossed away across the country each day. That does not mean we are engaging in acts of blasphemy and that all of us should be arrested, tried and sentenced to die.

Accusing someone of blasphemy has become a means to extract revenge — and in this not only non-Muslims but many Muslims have been accused. In this particular case, it would seem that perhaps the sales representative who first reported the matter to the police was not happy with the reception he received from the doctor. But the fact that even failing to receive a representative can lead to so grave a charge is horrific. The latest incident, coming just weeks after Aasia Bibi, the mother of five, was found guilty of blasphemy by a lower court, highlights the need to tackle the blasphemy laws on an urgent basis. Through the period of over two decades that they have been in place, they have been misused with greater and greater frequency. The police have abetted this by making arrests instantly, without any attempt to assess the matter or examine if there is any logic behind them. Like the case of the Emperor’s proverbial new clothes, fewer and fewer are willing to speak the truth and declare this state of affairs as being absurd and ludicrous.

At the very least, the blasphemy law in its current state must be amended to prevent its gross misuse. The PPP government needs to take the lead in this matter. For starters, it can take ownership of a bill recently tabled in parliament by former information minister and MNA Sherry Rehman. Furthermore, the government should take a stand on this issue because its continuing failure to do so only emboldens the clergy and the obscurantists and cedes much-needed ground to the extremists. The media, for its part, needs to be more vigilant, especially the Urdu media which is read by the bulk of the population, many of whom may not see anything wrong with what has happened in Hyderabad. It can be said with some justification, that the English press railing against the law’s misuse, while good, is nothing more than preaching to the converted.

The courts must look at the need for justice and the apex court should perhaps exercise its suo motu jurisdiction in such matters without fear from extremists. If we don’t take a stand against this lunacy now, there may be nothing to fight for in the not-too-distant future.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th,  2010.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • Javed Abbas, Kuwait
    Dec 14, 2010 - 4:05AM

    It is indeed a lunatic ( and chaotic, lawless too) land, as everyone knows only too well.Recommend

  • Arindom
    Dec 14, 2010 - 5:45AM

    Recently an ‘analyst’ opined that the Pakistani cricket team didnot perform well enough in Australia because their shoes had some green colour pattern!!

    Obviously there is no end to this madness!

    A logical extrapolation would be digging up every blade of grass in Pakistan as grass is green and one cannot therefore walk on grass?Recommend

  • Sharif Lone
    Dec 14, 2010 - 10:41AM

    Jus shameful. Well written editorial. Thank youRecommend

  • T R Khan
    Dec 14, 2010 - 10:47AM

    I and all normal Pakistani Muslim will fully endorse the views expressed in the editorial. However, the change in the law is an uphill task and will take years. In the interim we must extend the blasphemy law to cover religious leaders of all denomination, including likes of Guru Nanak, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad etc. This will ensure peace and normalcy. Recommend

  • Raju
    Dec 14, 2010 - 10:51AM

    Is Islam so fragile that it can be harmed by just tossing up a card Even animals protect their children from harmful creatures .Please save your children from these so called religious contractors for the sake of Islam Otherwise world will distance it self from Islam then you will complain for Islamphobia Recommend

  • Zulfiqar Haider
    Dec 14, 2010 - 11:08AM

    This incident clearly explains the attitude of the local clerics, who had developed hatred against the minority sect, and wanted an excuse to indict him. At least the police officers should have some sense. But sorry to say, our police is as useless as any illiterate fool roaming in the streets. Recommend

  • IZ
    Dec 14, 2010 - 11:46AM

    This ridiculous law needs to be gotten rid of. Only fools and thieves could possibly support it.Recommend

  • M M Malik
    Dec 14, 2010 - 1:10PM

    The high spiritual station of our Holy Prophet (saw) cannot be tarnished or defiled by such acts. Muslims are required to control their emotions and pray for the blasphemers so that God shows them the correct path. This is what the Holy Prophet (saw) did.
    If throwing printed material is blasphemy, then all Pakistani our blasphemers. Recommend

  • M M Malik
    Dec 14, 2010 - 1:11PM

    The high spiritual station of our Holy Prophet (saw) cannot be tarnished or defiled by such acts. Muslims are required to control their emotions and pray for the blasphemers so that God shows them the correct path. This is what the Holy Prophet (saw) did.
    If throwing printed material is blasphemy, then all Pakistani are blasphemers.Recommend

  • rashid
    Dec 14, 2010 - 3:38PM

    well said and well written editorial.

    this story is very ridiculous of the medical rep who used the religion for his personal vengeance. here lies the flaw with this law.. the doctor was honest not to accept card and hence bribe which the medical reps so often present and the doctors accept.
    but what price the doctor paid for his honesty.
    where is our chief justice. he should have taken sou motto actions which he often does even on trivial but he is least bothered about a highly qualified doctor from one of the the most peaceful and respectable sect of Islam, that is Ismailis…Recommend

  • Shahryar Ahmed
    Dec 14, 2010 - 4:05PM

    These so called clerics & mullahs represent the major part of ourt troubles. These idiots are using Islam for their own agenda.

    All this has been made possible by the true dictator pakistan has seen (ZIa-Ul-Haq). We should thank him for nearly all our troubles. Recommend

  • kk tiger
    Dec 14, 2010 - 6:17PM

    This is most rediculous! The mischief generated by this law can have no end. Tomorrow the same or another lunatic sales rep can accuse doctor that he did not show enough respect while picking up his card or respectfully touching with his eyes or the doctor did not perform proper ablution before picking his card.
    This lunacy must end. Mulla and their cohorts has no right to use our relegion and the name of our Holy Prophet (pbuh)in this manner. I believe PMA and other doctor bodies must have enough resources to bring at least this blasphaming sales rep to books for accusing a respectected doctor.Recommend

  • Jonathan
    Dec 14, 2010 - 8:42PM

    The way people who have very unfortunately acquired the meme set of Islam lash out at people in unreasonable & crazy ways – it shows that they are really not happy. Gender apartheid. An unhealthy society. The unhealthy nature of their religion & culture bubbles up to the surface in ways such as these: wanting to kill cartoonists, worrying about whether a teacher names a children’s Teddy Bear Mohammad, or whether someone tosses a business card of someone whose first name is Mohammad. All this crazy anger must come from somewhere.Recommend

  • Humanity
    Dec 14, 2010 - 11:14PM

    The irony is that the people wailing and lamenting the lunacy here and else where would wash up and go stand right behind the hate spewing mullah to offer their prayers. Is a divisive cleric who wrongs the society a fit imam? Isn’t an imam supposed to be one whom is a good person through his words and deeds? Should one pray behind a malicious, hypocrite imam who considers himself capable of meddling with God’s jurisdiction?

    It is not the mullah who is the problem. It is the lazy and coward masses who enable and empower the mullah by not challenging his nonsense and not question his authority. People have handed over their religion to the semi-literate bafoons who up the ante against Islam by each passing day.

    On one hand Islam absolutely disallows coercion and on the other it supports a wide range of interpretation. Yet the mullah have turned it upside down by the practice of shameless coercion and by touting only their version to be true Islam. These shameless people have raised themselves to the mantle of God through their arrogance and wicked judgements and fatwas. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) foretold that a time will come when ulema will become the worst creatures under the heaven creating mayhem and misery, misguiding people and disparaging the name of Islam and that mosques will be full of people but empty of righteousness.

    The prediction is aptly fulfilled when one looks as the current state of the so-called ulema and the muslims who follow them.Recommend

  • Marvee
    Dec 15, 2010 - 12:17PM

    This is really sad. This is not Islam who teaches us to punish, but to forgive. Its true that millions of Pakistani muslims daily discard such visiting cards or news papers etc without giving a second thought to it. Pakistani parents keep their kids names like Muhammad, Ahmed, Ali, Hassan, Hussain, Abdullah, Rahim, Rehman etc but they themselves don’t respect these names. They use abusive language when their kids do some mischieve! Please stop this and let humans live. Islam is much much greater than this!! Our Prophet (P.B.U.H) forgave those who hurt HIM or used abusive language against HIM. Our Prophet(P.B.U.H) went to that lady’s house, who used to throw garbage on HIM everyday, when she was ill!! It is ISLAM! Pls atleast learn from Our beloved Prophet(P.B.U.H)’s life and stop such practices!!Recommend

  • riazsal
    Dec 15, 2010 - 12:58PM

    Vast majority of Pakistani people are completly intoxicated by teachings of mullahs and the archaic blasphemy law, first they were after blood of Aisha Bibi and now want punishment for Dr.Valiyani, seems that only thing that will soothe their feelings is if someone is hanged for blasphemy. Recommend

  • G. Din
    Dec 15, 2010 - 5:11PM

    Muslim male is the greatest despot in the world today. Until Muslim women are not liberated from this stranglehold of the Muslim male, Islam will continue to go askew and flounder. You cannot deny half your community the very basic human rights and not skew your whole world view!Recommend

  • Dr. Danish
    Dec 16, 2010 - 2:03PM

    blasphemy law must be amended and its flaws should be removed in amended bill.Recommend

  • Dec 19, 2010 - 7:56PM

    I did not know this till now. My name is Mohammad. My teachers used to shout ‘shut up’ to me many times. My parents used to beat me regularly if I did not perform well in studies. Now my officer scolds me ‘most useless Mohammad’ whenever I trail behind my mates in work. After reading the above story, now I decided to charge all the above under blasphemy law. Thanks to the medical rep, my brother.

    Mohammad BashaRecommend

  • faheem Aamer
    Dec 20, 2010 - 12:21PM

    Pakistan is named an Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We say NO to the state religion.
    All blasphemy laws from 292 (A, B & C) till 298 (A, B & C) are discriminatory. They shuold be immediately removed from the constitution.
    The people of Pakistan need a new and just social contract as this constitution is not only giving a legal and lethal weapon like blasphemy laws in the hands of mullah – nazim – police trio, but also is unjust in many matters.
    The blasphemy laws were introduced by Zia and the death penalty was added in 1991. Every one knows whose government was that.
    PML – N is directly supporting religious extremist groups, through Saudia. Saudia is a state that does not allow the people of other religions in their country to build their religious places of worship. This allows people like Pastor Terry Jones to wow for the burn the Qura’an day and ultimately the mullahs in Pakistan start burning the churches and christian villages.
    This has to be stopped. If the elected parliament does not do anything, people will have to do another Long March and this the Chief of Army Staff, General Kyani’s intervention won’t make the people to take a U turn from Shahdra. It will reach the parliament house and even the luxurious parliament lodges.

    Give a just constitution to the people which could protect the common man of Pakistan. This is the only way when people will think that state shares the same interests as of the common people. Or there is a war ahead!Recommend

  • Kashif Chohan
    Dec 20, 2010 - 2:21PM

    How easy it is to make a law in a country of lawlessness like Pakistan and how easy is it to make it work? The whole country’s trend and root of all the problems boil down to ONE major factor which contributes to all what is happening. GREED. That is why these laws were made, that is why all laws have been abused.Recommend

  • Ashfaq
    Dec 20, 2010 - 3:29PM

    Misuse, of course is to be blamed and averted at all costs; but does misuse of a law ( however controversial that law may be) = total abolishment of that law???

    If everyone who says yes to that than please enlighten me which law should be left intact in the country?Recommend

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