Stories about Blasphemy Laws

Sara Taseer belittling Baloch women for voting proves money can’t buy integrity

With countless security threats lingering around the time of elections every five years, along with general political uncertainty, many citizens are afraid to step out of their comfort and safety zones in order to fulfil the responsibility of casting their votes. There has been a deadly and heart-breaking series of bomb blasts that have taken place in Quetta, killing numerous civilians and politicians, especially the most recent one taking place directly outside a polling station on Election Day. At a crucial time like this in the country, where voter turnout has been relatively low in the past, perhaps encouragement to ...

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Demanding equal rights in Pakistan can turn even model citizens into traitors

For too long, the faction of Pakistani society that upholds the principle of equal citizenship as a fundamental human right has been in despair. This is because human rights are an ideal no one disputes in theory but which, in essence, depend on the non-discrimination of individuals, whether based on religion, language, political opinion or socio-economic standing. However, human rights often becomes a provocative term when applied to a blogger with a dissenting political opinion, or to those we celebrate as symbols of our diversity on Easter and Christmas, or to those listening to speeches about their heroic contributions to the war on ...

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How I survived four and a half years in captivity

August 26, 2011, an ordinary day. I was driving to work on the same road in Lahore that I took every day, and my mind was busy with the mundane. A car blocked the road, but I didn’t give it much thought. Then five masked men put a gun to my head, pulled me out of the car and my world spun horribly out of control. Right now, I can’t tell all of the details of my capture or my release for security reasons. Someday I hope to be able to recount the full story. But I can say for ...

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Spare us the crocodile tears. Please stop. Khurram Zaki is dead. Do something.

Khurram Zaki is dead. The ‘unbearable lightness’ of intimidation and murder in Pakistan has manifested once again. The eulogies are pouring in; speculations are rife about who is behind the assassination of yet another liberal social activist and on social media a familiar war of words has commenced. Despite the fact that one bright light after another is being summarily extinguished, it appears that self-righteousness is still the prime mover of the national discourse. For the legion of Google scholars and keyboard Jedis, it’s all or nothing; either faith in its entirety must be indicted or the blame must lie elsewhere. ...

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Five years on: We still await a verdict on Salmaan Taseer’s battle against blasphemy laws

Any discourse on slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassination begins and ends with a trenchant critique of the country’s blasphemy law. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two and dealing with both simultaneously has become an inescapable reality. The close association between the death of a governor and the discriminatory nature of a law remains painfully relevant because it evokes dark memories of violence and bigotry. Taseer’s assassination strikes a raw nerve and reminds the world of an injustice that put the cuffs on a Christian girl who had allegedly passed derogatory remarks against the Holy Prophet (PBUH). It also plucks ...

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Four ways to condemn violence against minorities in Pakistan that are all wrong!

Minority communities in Pakistan are thankful for their moderate friends from mainstream Sunni school of thought, for supporting them in these harrowing times. Countless have condemned the attacks against minorities, and many have risked their own lives to stand up for others. However, in a few circles, some arguments in opposition to violence against minorities, while appearing to be a condemnation of violence, often end up being detrimental to these side-lined communities. Here are a few of those arguments, often heard from mainstream moderates (and if you hear yourself making one of these – please stop): 1) “We shouldn’t kill Shias because Shias and ...

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May peace win

Al Arabiya: “An Iranian educational and exhibition centre has launched an international cartoon competition around the theme of Holocaust denial, in a response to the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) by the French Charlie Hebdo magazine.” Charlie Hebdo’s immediate publication of an issue of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) with a tear and a message of forgiveness, in response to the January 7 massacre, has fomented protests from Mali to Lahore. Iran came up with a Holocaust cartoon competition, and Pakistani lawmaker Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour offered a bounty to whoever can murder the owner of Charlie Hebdo. Then Copenhagen, in a parallel attack to Hebdo, saw another sociopath fire shots at ...

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What separates Charlie Hebdo from The New York Times?

Let’s say you had a new neighbour. You knock on their door and say, “Hey there, welcome to the neighbourhood. I live next door. Oh, and by the way, you look like a pig. And is that your mother behind you? She looks like a fat old donkey. Dinner at my place tonight?” You certainly have the right to say all that. But should you? And what purpose will it serve? And though I would not punch you if you ever said those things to me, I would do one thing other than simply closing the door behind me – I would use ...

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Interfaith gestures: Moral placebos or progress?

On November 14, 2014, Muslims prayed at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. South Africa’s US Ambassador, Ebrahim Rasool, gave a sermon and declared that, “never again must there be intolerance towards Christians or any other faith,” and media observers heralded this breakthrough in interfaith relations, though not all cheered. The prayers were interrupted by a heckler screaming that America was “founded on Christian principles”. Reverend Franklin Graham described the event as “sad”. Dr Sebastian Gorka at Breitbart.com accused the Muslim Brotherhood of taking over the cathedral, inexplicably bringing in the Armenian genocide during the Ottoman Empire; all this in the ...

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Is Pakistan heading towards anarchy?

On Monday, November 10, the students and professors of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) held a candlelight vigil, organised by the SZABIST Law Society, in memory of Sajid Masih and Shama Bibi, a Christian couple who were accused of blasphemy and their bodies burnt in a brick kiln in the rural area of Punjab. Photo: Fatima Ansari More than a hundred law students gathered in front of their campus holding candles, chanting slogans like “give justice to Sajid and Shama” and “say no to terrorism,” among many others. The crowd swelled, as more students who were unaware ...

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