I’ve been dismayed by the reaction to Salman Taseer’s assassination in Pakistan. I’ve heard people say the PPP governor of Punjab “had it coming” or “a good thing happened”. It’s by no means universal but this is a significant body of Pakistani opinion even amongst the UK diaspora. It’s not usually this way when it comes to terrorist incidents – for that is what this is we must remember.
The same takfeeri ideology that has been killing a steadily rising number of people in Pakistan over the years, one which says “I’m a Muslim with the right opinions so I will blow you up in the street, mosque or shop” is behind this killing. It says something about the level of bloodshed that has taken place in Pakistan that it has come to this. Those sympathising with Mumtaz Qadri’s motives should remember this. It was Salman Taseer today. But tomorrow it could be you uttering a word out of place.
The genie has come well and truly out of the takfeeri bottle and it is going to take a lot of pushing to put it back in. Once you open the door to killing innocent people, there’s no place that it will stop. There is a suicide bombing every four days in Pakistan, killing 8,000 people a year – Pakistanis killing Pakistanis.
Taseer’s killing was not even really about the blasphemy law. He didn’t say anything blasphemous, not that it would justify shooting him even if he did. He questioned a manmade law. Life is cheap in Pakistan. Words can be expensive.
Defenders of the law say it is the abuse of its provisions, rather than the law itself that is the problem. Its loosely defined nature gives the lie to that. Surely a Muslim-majoirty country should be confident and comfortable enough to withstand contradictory opinions? It is a matter of rank hypocrisy to expect to go around the world openly proselytising your own faith, loving every minute of Zakir Naik dissections of the bible, and at the same time support indirect imputement of blasphemy as a capital offence.
The state has no business judging disputes amongst people claiming faux offence for something uttered in a private context. It has led to vigilantes taking what shouldn’t be law into their own hands. Bombings at places of worship for Christians, Shias and Ahmadis are not unrelated.
Ironically, laws designed to protect Islam are doing much harm to its image. Mercy between faiths is in jeopardy. A mark of a society is how it treats its minorities. They should be protected and respected. Muslims in the West should know that as well as anybody. It is depressing therefore to see the same shrill reactions to the killing here. Let’s say for a moment that it’s true that some Christians said some offensive things about Islam to their neighbours or work colleagues. Why would the debate be at such a gutter level in the towns and villages of Pakistan? Could it be because of the myopic religious outlook presented by Muslims, the type of which has been exemplified in Pakistan this week?
Where are visionary leaders that are needed to build the new future for Pakistan? One free of war, terrorism and drone attacks. One that has a plan to rebuild the flood ravaged country. Leaders of a mass worldwide campaign to obtain relief from the international debt crippling the country. One that will feed the poor, educate the masses and eliminate the endemic corruption as something profoundly un-Islamic. A confident nation that can tolerate people saying what they want in the cafes and on the streets. The diversions need to stop and there needs to be focus on what’s important.