Pakistan’s jihad against reason

‘Covered in the righteous cloak of religion… even a puny dwarf imagines himself a monster. Important to face. And call their bluff.’

The man who tweeted the above sentence was shot in the head from behind by his own body guard.

Two other armed guards, who knew of the impending murder, violated standard operating procedure and stayed quiet, their guns hanging limply by their sides while the assassin shot 27 times at the now lifeless, punctured body of Salman Taseer, the governor of the Punjab province of Pakistan.

The governor was given a state funeral, but the reactions from sections of the Pakistani society were more than jubilant.

An uneasy disquiet hung over the country’s democratic credentials as hundreds of lawyers showered the unrepentant body-guard with rose petals as he was being taken to court. The Rawalpindi District Bar Association, a body ostensibly designated to uphold the rule of law, has even pledged to fight his case for free.

A statement by 500 clerics of the Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat religious group commended the bodyguard for what they proclaimed was a righteous killing.

“We pay rich tributes and salute the bravery, valour and faith of Mumtaz Qadri,” they said of the assassin, who shot the unarmed 66 year-old governor from behind.

The incident has brought into sharp focus the tenuous democratic freedoms and fragile rule of law in Pakistan – a country that ranks 10th in the Foreign Policy magazine index of failed states.

Mr Taseer, an outspoken liberal and fifth-most senior member of the ruling PPP, had been the most vocal proponent for repealing Pakistan’s stringent blasphemy law, which was in the news recently following the death sentence awarded to Aasiya Bibi, a Christian woman, for ‘insulting the Prophet’ – an allegation she strongly denies.

The blasphemy law was introduced by former Pakistani dictator General Zia-Ul-Haq, whose military regime oversaw Pakistan’s decided swing towards a more hardline wahhabi religious state.

The law has been criticised by Human Rights groups in Pakistan for allegedly being abused to settle scores against minorities.

In December 2010, an Ismaili Muslim doctor, Naushad Valiyani, was charged with blasphemy after he threw away a business card belonging to a man whose first name was Mohammed – an exceedingly common first name for many Pakistanis.

In the past, accused blasphemers have been lynched inside court premises; at least one Judge has been killed after acquitting an alleged blasphemer.

Pakistan appears to be caught in a vicious battle between the pro-democratic voice of liberal Muslims, who espouse an Islam of reason and tolerance – and religious hardliners who promote an Islam of fear and supremacy, which rejects the rule of law and democracy. After Salman Taseer’s assassination, the scales have decidedly tipped in favour of the latter.

Mumtaz Qadri revealed that he was inspired by a sermon from Sunni cleric, Mufti Hanif Qureshi, who preached that anyone who killed Salman Taseer would be granted Heaven, and become a hero of Islam.

“After the motivation I decided to kill the governor,” Qadri told investigators.

Section 503 of the Pakistan Penal Code makes it an offense to threaten any person with injury. Nevertheless the law appears to not be enforced when it comes to public remarks by religious conservatives.

There have been attempts in the past to curb the trend of religious right-wing parties using mosques to incite violence, especially against minorities.

In 2007, MP Minocher Bhandara presented a bill to Pakistani parliament to include Mohamed Ali Jinnah’s famous August 11, 1947 speech to the Constituent Assembly, as part of the Constitution.

In his speech, the founder of Pakistan had famously proclaimed that ‘in course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense… but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

According to Bhandara, “The speech has been consistently downplayed by the government of Pakistan since 1949. Parts of the speech have been materially altered, or omitted altogether, in the past… On the one hand tremendous respect is shown for the memory of the Quaid-e-Azam, but on the other hand his political thoughts are desecrated to appease religious groups.”

In an almost parallel narrative, the ideals envisioned by founder Mujibur Rahman proved to be short-lived in the overwhelmingly Muslim-populated Bangladesh.

Right wing fundamentalist General Ziaur Rahman rewrote the constitution and declared Bangladesh an ‘Islamic’ state, following the overthrow of a democratic government in 1975.

His widow, Khaleda Zia, who took over the reins of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), flirted dangerously with Islamist parties in the years following Zia’s assassination.

Over 8000 madrassas sprouted in Bangladesh – many of them Saudi-funded and promoting the rigid, literalistic Wahhabi school of thought, while terrorist groups like Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HuJI) and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen mushroomed under her government’s rule.

As with Pakistan, the experiment in home-brewed radicalism blew up in the government’s face when, in the span of half an hour on the morning of August 17, 2005, nearly 530 bombs exploded across the country.

There have been stirrings in Bangladesh in the past year. Following a series of assassinations that took out many of its top leaders, the secularist Awami League stormed into Parliament in late 2008, winning 263 out of 300 parliamentary seats.

In October 2010, the country’s Judiciary struck down the fifth amendment of the constitution and invalidated the military regimes of the 1970s, thereby re-declaring Bangladesh a secular state and realising Mujibur Rahman’s long lost dream.

Indeed, the battle between democratic ideals and religious dogmatism has followed a familiar script in the Maldives, following the rapid rise of wahhabism in the last decade.

Censorship and religious intimidation appears to be taking root in the country. Soon after the first multi-party elections, the newly instituted Ministry of Islamic Affairs controlled by the Adhaalath Party banned DJs, blogs and websites critical of them.

In an article on their website, a local Islamic NGO openly denounced democracy as a decadent, evil, western system incompatible with their version of Islam.

Islamist preachers have made anti-Semitic speeches in public, justifying their positions with highly literalistic interpretations of the scriptures. In an unprecedented move, religious conservatives recently took to the streets of Male’, yelling anti-Semitic slogans.

Among the many frictions between Islamism and democratic ideals, liberals would contend that the Religious Unity Regulations drafted by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, if imposed, would be an unheralded victory for Islamists: the Maldives would then have its own blasphemy law.

Notably, the liberal voice that lies buried in Pakistan is deafeningly silent in the Maldives.

In a chilling replay of Pakistan and Bangladesh, mainstream politicians and the public appear to have chosen to ignore the tide of Islamism – despite the Sultan Park bombing and a very visibly-changing Maldivian identity.

Liberals continue to await a Maldivian counterpart to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the young chairperson of PPP, who has vowed to take up ‘jihad’ against Islamist forces.

Referring to violent Islamists in a speech mourning Taseer’s death, he said: ‘Allah has promised them hell, and we shall send them there.’


33 thoughts on “Pakistan’s jihad against reason”

  1. I pray to almighty to protect Maldives from these Islamists. They are not only dangerous to any country but also to humanity.

  2. Very good article. It's scary knowing that the same wahhabis are now trying to take over our country. Let's hope our politicians and all realize the dangers they pose and take strict action.

  3. Minivan News, Is this a comment from Yameen Rasheed (aka yaamyn)? Or is he a journalist working for you? From Yameen's (yaamyn) blog and some of his comments posted on minivan news, it is very clear that this misguided fellow supports and spreads islamophobia. As he states on his blog, he hates everything. This guy reminds me of Jared :

  4. MN, this is a very old story. What does it take so long for you to get some important news of the world?

  5. Lol, Amina. You and your little friends are cornered now. I expect you to pick on even the most irrelevant points.

    Minivan news should run an article on exactly why the UN is stopping major aid operations in Pakistan too.

    HINT: It's because the so-called islamists consider blowing up starving refugees to be 'jihad'. 😛

  6. "Section 503 of the Pakistan Penal Code makes it an offense to threaten any person with injury. Nevertheless the law appears to not be enforced when it comes to public remarks by religious conservatives."

    This seems to be an issue even in Raajje, although even in our constitution threatening people with harm is an it not?

    Even politicians do it...not just those who spread intolerance and hatred in the guise of Islam.

    Good article... wish it focused a little bit more on the relationship between the govt and Adhalath...and how this is affecting the spread of hatred and intolerance.

  7. This article is an eye opener for all young Maldivians who wants to go there.
    Recently, one young reporter has also been killed there.

  8. By: Yaamin Rasheed...that gives enough information about how useless this article will be.

  9. @fe_rk: Judging a book by it's cover - and judging an article by it's writer is what simpletons do.

    How vexing...

    You can call it useless - but it won't stop the flow of fate against the tyrants who have entitled themselves to using islam as a tool of oppression.

  10. What we need is to spread awareness on the concept of hate speech and somehow pass relevant legislation. This is a broad statement I know, but the details of such a plan will need to be a work in progress.

    Why politicians declare an undying love for the faith, Yaamyn my dear friend, is not because of a lack of idealism. It is due to the prevalent atmosphere which has developed over a span of many years. The picture is not so bleak as one may paint it.

    The entrance of foreign concepts and ideals into a culture is a natural result of globalization. Wahhabism, democracy, labor unionization, going to coffee, sunglasses, burqas, skinny jeans etc. etc. - All these are concepts which find their way through modern means of travel and communication.

    I understand a deep resentment for faith among the intelligent in our society. We feel that the faithful often reject us for the very reason of our increased intellect and awareness. This often springs to the surface in a variety of ways. Manifesting itself in extreme rebellion and anti-social behavior. OR through idealistic activism. Tone down the self-righteousness and get to know your fellow countrymen. Try not to associate liberal values with the West too much but try to communicate tolerance through accepted modes of communication.

  11. Objection, haterz.

    I'm certain that the more intellectual amongst us have found a 'hatred of faith' because this so-called faith demands us to surrender to the whims of an arrogant few.

  12. @ Yaamyn Rasheed

    Can you bring out a coverage on how Yitzak Rabin died at the hands of a Jew who thought he would end up making peace with the Arabs?

    And how Dodi Al Fayed died as he was about to desecrate the British royalty by marrying the Princess of Wales?

  13. @ Rasheeda

    "This article is an eye opener for all young Maldivians who wants to go there."

    If this is an eye-OPENER, then I would say Israeli death squads against innocent Muslims and their family members would be an eye-GAPER against establishing diplomatic relations with Israel and sending our students to study in Israel. They would assassinate any Prime Minister who is likely to give up stolen land and make peace with Arabs.

    Besides how do we know for sure the illiterate woman Asia Bibi did not bad-mouth the Prophet (SAW)?

    Surely she would not agree to the charges, would she?

    We have many BLIND male and female Salaman Taseers here in Maldives today who are hell bent on changing our Constitution to allow religious freedom in Maldives.

    If today, for instance, someone says the editors of various blogs in Maldives badmouthed our Prophet, under their various responses as EDITOR, would they agree? The proof is there in the archives.

    Or is it freedom of expression?

  14. @ Ahmed Anony

    "..because this so-called faith demands us to surrender to the whims of an arrogant few."

    Yes. Isn't it? The few Atheists.

  15. Mufti Hanif Qureshi should announce all other short cuts to heaven.
    Guaranteed entrance to heaven that is, though i wonder how he is able to say it, since he is not a prophet, and as such would not have a direct line to God.
    Pakistan is a failed state, its official now, and Salman Taseer was one gutsy Muslim and a politician.

    Its a pity that even in Maldives, all politicians continue to abuse Islam for their own private gains, playing into the hands of extremists.
    We are all going to suffer when these extremists take control of Maldives, no matter which party we support.
    Former President Gayoom and Thasmeen should stop playing the religious card.
    And all other opposition people. There is lots of faults to be found in this government.

  16. A law forbiding blasphemy is not quite the problem here. It is not the only law abused by the powerful elite of the country. So why not write about all the laws of Pakistan - they are all being abused to carry out ruthless acts all the time. It is their justice sytem and the culture of voilence. There are Western countries where saying a bad thing about holocaust is forbiden by law. Is holocaust more sacred than god?

  17. @ Ahmed Aliased - That is but one among many factors. But why should we be so arrogant, I say? If we can refrain from insulting the beliefs of the majority, which is reflected in the 2008 Constitutions while acting in ways to develop a culture of tolerance, I believe we can achieve much more.

    Articles such as the one supposedly written by Yaamyn, above, will only reach a limited and niche audience. This audience will already accept and support the arguments therein. The masses on the other hand cannot grasp the concepts discussed above. So this article is surely not meant to raise awareness. It is a display meant to bring to the attention of one's contemporaries that one is a civilized individual fit for the global village. It is also meant to reach out to policymakers.

    What I am trying to say is that the same policymakers are aware of the situation spelled out in this article. I believe certain freedoms will blossom out of the political ether when the time is ripe. Democracy was not brought to this country by force. It grew out of the aspirations of a matured middle class and an enraged ruling class. Male' society - the opinion leaders in the country at the moment - was educated enough to grasp the language of revolt used by the opposition movement against Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. It was in no way imported from the UK wholesale and enforced upon the populace.

    However, one must note that outside Male' society, democracy is understood in limited terms. Not because of stupidity but because of unfamiliarity and also because of a lack of a sense of urgency in demanding rights which one has no use for. The change in status quo is what matters most to communities in island settlements except Male'.

    We have to tally the numbers and see whether western liberals outweigh the rest. Or else we will have to enforce religious freedom upon a people unready to accept it. Unlike import duties and GST, laws demanding protection for freedom of religion will be hard to enforce if a majority of the Maldivian people will not accept it. Therefore, politicians, who are not stupid and who, in their youth, must have also come to the conclusions Yaamyn has drawn here, are forced to yet wait and see how society will shape itself in the coming days in order to peacefully introduce the rights demanded above.

  18. Oh and by the way, I also believe the parallels drawn in the above article are pretty shaky and that fearmongering is the most unpalatable tool in the activist handbook. 😀

  19. Salman Taseer was a brave man to stand up in defense of free speech in the radicalized environment of Pakistan. Brave politicians are a rare breed, and his death is a huge loss for Pakistan.

  20. Its been a while since such a quality piece of journalism has made its way to the site....although this piece is a bit late.

    nevertheless, keep it up.

    just like Pakistan, the liberal voice in maldives is also silent and shall remain for fear is the tool of extremists and fanatics. May god give the silent majority courage to stand up.

  21. Dear lord, who ever n where ever you are,

    Please do not let any Maldivian ever get an opportunity to go to Pakistan. We are human and if we did go there, we will be drawn into this kind of conflict and brainwashed.

  22. Look everyone! heck is pulling out red herrings from, drum roll please, his ass!

    Standing ovation for the lad please!


  23. @heck (nut) & Rasheeda

    I agree with Rasheeda that we Maldivians should stay away from any country that is accused and labled as "a breeding ground for terrorism".

  24. You cant teach people morality or moderation, but you sure can teach people to think rationally.To be critical.

    You can exercise this and you can publicly demonstrate this.

  25. Red herrings, lies and slander is all they have in their tactics list, AV - I'm not even half surprised; but hey...

    *gives standing ovation.*

  26. @heck and rest of pure muslims,

    read it very carefully, you will understand how this controversial blasphemy law oppresses minority and abused by others.

    @ s.heck

    Salman Taseer and Yitzak Rabin's difference is their creed. They fought for good cause. Some intolerable fanatics killed them. But i didnt get you at all. why did you mention Yitzak Rabin here? is it just pointing others fault justifies this situations?

    hats off yo yaamyn

  27. @heck on Mon, 17th Jan 2011 12:10 AM

    " allow religious freedom in Maldives..."

    Whats wrong with religious freedom?

  28. I reckon' he's retreated because he's run outta clever comebacks.

    And in case you guys meet him again, please let him know that he's failed on his religion marketing class and has to repeat his classes next year, ok?.


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