21 October 2016
AsiaNews.it Twitter AsiaNews.it Facebook
Geographic areas

  • > Africa
  • > Central Asia
  • > Europe
  • > Middle East
  • > Nord America
  • > North Asia
  • > South Asia
  • > South East Asia
  • > South West Asia
  • > Sud America
  • > East Asia

  • mediazioni e arbitrati, risoluzione alternativa delle controversie e servizi di mediazione e arbitrato

    » 01/12/2011, 00.00


    Blasphemy law: Pope’s call highlights split in Pakistani society

    Jibran Khan

    Radical leaders and Islamic movements incite crowds and warn Christians against forming a party to repeal the law, a step that would bring chaos. The government denies it plans changes to the law. Civil society leaders appreciate Benedict XVI’s speech. Bilawal Bhutto defends minorities. Muslim intellectual calls for full religious freedom and a secular state.
    Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Pope’s call on Pakistan to repeal the blasphemy law shows how divided the country is. Radical leaders and Islamic movements are inciting crowds, accusing Benedict XVI of plunging “the entire world into a deadly war”. The Pakistani government has categorically ruled out any amendments to the blasphemy law. At the same time, a group of self-styled young “liberal” attorneys has come out in defence of the blasphemy law, adopting increasingly extremist views. Yet other political and civil society groups as well as Muslim legal experts have described the Pontiff’s speech as “positive”, appreciating his call for religious freedom. Among the promoters of change, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has described those celebrating the death of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer as “the real blasphemers”, urging the government to protect minorities.

    In Lahore yesterday, Jamaat-e-Islami leaders led protests against Benedict XVI for his speech. The party’s secretary general, Liaquat Baloch, dubbed the pontiff’s demand as “insane and a plot to threaten Pakistan’s Christian minority’s security”.

    Baloch said his party would hold another rally in Lahore on 30 January, stating that the protests would continue until the parliamentary committee dealing with the issue was scrapped and the amendment to the bill, tabled by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) member Sherry Rehman, was dropped.

    He added that Salman Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri, enjoyed the backing of “the entire nation” and that “proud and honourable” lawyers would secure his release.

    A group of young lawyers from Punjab, who took part in the protests in 2007 and 2008 against then President Musharraf’s decision to sack Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, joined the fight to maintain the blasphemy law.

    Born during the dictatorial rule of General Zia-ul-Haq (who had the blasphemy law adopted in 1986), these lawyers had hitherto been considered outspoken defenders of democracy and freedom. Now they embody the country’s slip towards fundamentalism.

    They are led by 30-year-old Rao Abdur Raheem who in December set up a "lawyers' forum", called the Movement to Protect the Dignity of the Prophet.

    The group claims to be independent and liberal, but they also believe that the blasphemy law is legitimate and that Mumtaz Qadri is innocent until proven guilty.

    Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani categorically ruled out any amendment to the blasphemy law. He was backed by Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah, who disowned fellow PPP member Sherry Rehman, who is in favour of changes.

    Islamic legal scholars have warned Pakistani Christians against forming a party to seek the repeal of the law. A Faisalabad Muslim leader told AsiaNews under anonymity that any attempt to cancel the law “would lead to confusion in society”.

    However, moderate Muslim groups and leaders have praised the Pope for his speech, calling it a sign of hope. “I appreciate Pope`s thoughts. It is the need of the time to take a stand and promote religious freedom. I also back the Pope`s call to repeal the blasphemy laws since they have only been used for settling personal rivalries,” said Mullah Mehfooz Ahmed.

    An example that illustrates the problem came yesterday, when two men, Muhammad Shafi, 45, and his son Muhammad Aslam, 20, were sentenced to life in prison and a fine for blasphemy. In fact, the accusations on which their conviction was based stem from arguments they had with another Muslim. Complicating matters was the fact that the parties to the disagreement belong to different Sunni schools, Deobandi and Barelvi.

    Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the ruling PPP, also spoke out against the Salman Taseer’s murder and the progressive Islamisation of Pakistan. In his view, those celebrating the governor’s death are the “real blasphemers”.

    Son of the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the current President Ali Zardari, the young political leader slammed violence committed in the name of Islam. He also called for the protection of the country’s minorities. However, his equivocating attitude towards the controversial blasphemy law has been criticised by Shehrbano Taseer, the Punjab governor’s daughter.

    Speaking to AsiaNews, she slammed the inconsistencies of the ruling party’s, her father’s party. She noted that in 2008, the PPP had proposed changes in those elements of the law that led to social and religious disharmony, but “demonstrations by religious groups against a pardon for Asia Bibi” undermined the party’s and the government’s agenda.

    Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, told AsiaNews that the “government is clearly under pressure from the religious parties” and has done “a u-turn on [. . .] amendments to the blasphemy law.” Indeed, “There is a clear difference of opinion among the members of the Pakistan People’s Party”.

    The only certainty according to Muslim intellectual Babar Ayaz is that “No democracy is complete if it is not secular”. Like the Pope, he believes that full religious freedom is necessary because no one can “impose their thinking [. . .] on others.”

    e-mail this to a friend Printable version

    See also

    10/01/2011 PAKISTAN
    In Karachi, 50,000 rally behind blasphemy law
    Fundamentalist leaders organise rally and praise Salman Taseer’s murderer as a “hero of Islam”. The Pope appeals to the Pakistani government to repeal the law because it is a “pretext” for violence and injustice. Pakistani Christians pray for the governor of Punjab, a “martyr” according to Saudi newspaper Arab News.

    09/03/2016 13:23:00 PAKISTAN
    For Pakistani Catholics, Shahbaz Taseer’s release after five years gives hope for the future

    After almost five years of captivity, the son of the former governor – killed for his opposition to Islamic extremism – was released. Now he is in a safe place with his family. “Perhaps this release is a sign of the times, mature enough for a necessary change of course strongly advocated by Pakistan’s civil society,” said a Justice and Peace official. For a human rights activist, “authorities seem to be on the right path, but they have a long way to go”.

    03/02/2011 PAKISTAN
    Blasphemy law: Rehman withdraws proposed changes, as teacher denounces 17-year-old boy
    With her life threatened by Muslim fundamentalists, the PPP Member of the National Assembly accepts to toe the party line and accept the government’s view. Prime Minister Gilani confirms that changes will not be introduced. A student is arrested in Karachi for blasphemy after he is accused of insulting the name of Muhammad in an exam. Human Rights Watch calls the decision “truly appalling”.

    13/10/2016 12:34:00 PAKISTAN
    Asia Bibi’s final appeal postponed once again. The local Church invites us to pray

    The final appeal was set to be heard today in Islamabad, after having been postponed from 2014. A judge refused to show up, perhaps out of fear. She is accused of blasphemy, but has always denied any wrongdoing. She has been in prison since 2009. Muslims call for a "quick hanging".


    05/01/2011 PAKISTAN - INDIA
    Christians honour Salman Taseer, a courageous victim of the blasphemy law
    For Fr. James Chennan, Vice Provincial of the Dominicans in Lahore, the country has lost a promoter of human rights, loved by minorities. Indian Christian leaders condemn Taseer’s murder, one of the few credible voices of Pakistan.

    Editor's choices

    On “Hong Kong sectors” supposedly "against Francis"

    John Mok Chit Wai

    A scholar at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who collaborates with AsiaNews, responds to accusations against the agency and people in Hong Kong with respect to criticism of the Vatican’s diplomatic approach towards China. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right and a universal value, whether in China, Russia or the Middle East. Between "Right" and "Left", China defines itself as left, yet it practices state capitalism and unfettered capitalism just as "right-wing governments" do. Gaudium et Spes calls on the faithful to engage in politics against the "arbitrary domination by [. . .] a political party,” like in China.

    The "enemies" of Pope Francis

    Bernardo Cervellera

    The charge made against AsiaNews that we are against the Pope and in favor of Putin, is an opportunity to outline what motivates our commitment to evangelization. And also to ask for greater professionalism from those who write about the Pope. The Pope does not need public defenders. Facilitating dialogue between "conservatives" and "progressives" to realize the Council and concern ourselves with the world so that it encounters Jesus Christ. Christ’s “enemies” were also his "friends."


    AsiaNews monthly magazine (in Italian) is free.


    News feed

    Canale RSScanale RSS 

    Add to Google


    IRAN 2016 Banner

    2003 © All rights reserved - AsiaNews C.F. e P.Iva: 00889190153 - GLACOM®