The sun is blazing down as you work the field, and having a drink of water you offer some to another labourer. They refuse to be served by you, stating you are unclean as a Christian. Further, they suggest you purify yourself by a ritual to convert to islam. Your kind gesture rudely rebuffed, you make a comment about The Prophet …
The Supreme Court of Pakistan will now decide whether the death sentence for blasphemy will apply to farmworker Asia Bibi, who has already been beaten by a mob. Forget the shambles of a trial that cannot even repeat the allegation for fear it corrupt the soul of the Islamic nation, or the souls of those present may burn a little longer in hell.
Blasphemy laws should not exist in any form. They are the product of the insider outsider distinction that religion uses to divide people. To entrench state control on the way citizens think and behave about religion. No one is free to understand the Nature of God, when the courts will rule on your thoughts and punish you for them.
The condemnation should be loud not just for the sentence of death on Asia Bibi, but that Pakistan has a blasphemy law. Yet the voices raised even to reform the law are met by the sound of a gun. Governor of the Punjab Province Salman Taseer took an interest in Bibi’s case. He was assassinated by his own bodyguard for doing so.
In an interview, Taseer remarked (follow link for whole Q&A worth reading):
Nearly 90% of the media in Pakistan has spoken out against this. I have watched talk shows, spoken to anchors, read numerous columns and opinions, and barring those with a deliberate agenda, not just every media person but also guests on talk shows have openly condemned the Blasphemy Law. They all say it should be amended, which is something which has been the most encouraging result of my move. Because I took a stand, many people have lined up and taken a stand and that, in turn, will empower judges and law-enforcement agencies to the extent that they may not bow to pressure. I think that now a policeman registering a case of blasphemy or a judge hearing a case will investigate before registering or at least think twice before hearing such as case.
In this situation nothing less than solidarity with those trying to abolish the blasphemy law and the victims of the legal system is vital. Bibi may have to wait a further three years for the Supreme Court to rule. She was incarcerated in 2010.
It is tempting to suggest the fundamentalists are running Pakistan, not least when they openly celebrated the bodyguard’s murderous actions. They are running rings around a political establishment that dare not take them on. As Taseer remarked in the above interview:
The real problem is that the government is not prepared to face religious fanaticism head on. This also gives us a bad name in the world.
Stand with the people of Pakistan determined to take their country back from fundamentalists.
They face the mob, bullets, and the courts. The least we can do is voice our support. Or our silence will be complicit in the actions of fanatics.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog