01/13/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Pakistani Muslims with the Pope for religious freedom and repeal of blasphemy law

by Jibran Khan
Imams and scholars against the norm, which is used only "to settle personal disputes." To stop extremism a well-functioning justice system and the secular state is required. The memory of Salman Taseer, who died because he wanted to "help a Christian woman."

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Respect for the words of Benedict XVI, appreciation for his call to repeal the blasphemy law - used to "settle personal disputes" - and defence for the Christian minority, a victim of violence and abuse. Religious leaders and Islamic scholars in Pakistan - along with human rights activists and members of civil society - have distanced themselves from fundamentalist threats against the pope, and expressed their appreciation of his campaign for "full religious freedom." The central question, they explainto AsiaNews, revolves around the secular state and the functioning of the judicial system, which must enforce the law and stop the extremists.

Along with human rights activists and members of civil society, Mullah Mehfuz Ahmed, head of the Islamic Council in Islamabad, has also welcomed the words of Benedict XVI. "It is time to take on firm positions and promote religious freedom – he stated clearly -. I also support the pope's words for the repeal of the blasphemy law, because it is only used to settle personal disputes”.

Mullah Mushararf Husain, an expert on Islamic law and the imam of the Jamia mosque in Rawalpindi, shows "respect for the words of Benedict XVI" and appreciates "his efforts over the blasphemy law." He also recalls the love of Salman Taseer for the Prophet Muhammad and said: "His only sin” was to help a Christian woman, convicted of blasphemy. " The imam adds that "it is time for the major parties to join efforts to eradicate fundamentalist mentality," a necessary step to "save the country" from the brink.

Muhammad Asad Shafique, head of the department of Islamic studies at Quaid-e-Azam University, told AsiaNews that "the pope's statement comes at a crucial moment" because the government "has prostrated to pressure from Islamic groups." The scholar points out that the Qadri trial - the murderer of the Punjab Governor - is "a test case for the justice system" because first of all judges must determine "whether Salman Taseer has committed the crime of blasphemy." In his view, the decision on the case will affect "the interpretation of the law."

The Muslim scholar Ali Waqas Wasti recalls the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and comments: "If he were alive today, he would not survive very long," because he would be killed "by extremists on false charges of blasphemy." He explains that fundamentalists consider the pope’s words "offensive", they "do not read between the lines," he also recalls that "there are courts that must decide who to punish or release" and critics of the law " are not blasphemers".

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