Stories about blasphemy

Ahsan Iqbal was shot but the bullets were provided by the very hands he shakes

As I write this, the country is still reeling from the shock of an assassination attempt on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal. I am grateful that the minister has survived and is on his way to recovery. The accused attacker, who has been caught, claims to have attempted this assassination on the pretext of protecting “Khatm-e-Nabuwat” (finality of Prophethood). Considering the fact that Ahsan himself is a religious and a very decent person, this is an extremely dangerous development. It shows that now, literally, anyone could be a target, if some fanatic believes that he or she has violated the sanctity ...

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The Mashal Khan case verdict brings victory, hope and a lesson for Pakistan

The dawn of April 13, 2017 saw the might of a monster that was long nurtured in Pakistan. A monster of hate, intolerance, violence and one who misuses the blasphemy law as a tool of vengeance. This time the prey was Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old, mass communications student at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). The ghastly lynching done as a ‘great service’ to Islam was a manifestation that human beings are capable of carrying unimaginable proportions of barbarity, if they are driven by religious conviction and self-righteousness. The investigation that followed soon revealed that the allegation of blasphemy against Mashal was, in ...

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There could only be one Asma Jahangir, Pakistan’s valiant moral compass

Last year, I wrote an article praising a person who I consider to be my most favourite Pakistani, Ms Asma Jahangir. In that article, I wrote how courageous she was and how she had taken principled liberal stances throughout her life. Due to this, her support for any political party or institution was not constant. She supported the judiciary during the lawyers’ movement and was its fiercest critics later on when she found out that judiciary under former Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Chaudhry was overstepping its constitutional authority. She supported Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) point of view ...

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Yes, Richard Spencer is a racist, but the US is still a democracy governed through a system of checks and balances

Richard Spencer, an American firebrand and a symbol of the alt-right movement in the US, recently delivered a speech at the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Florida. Spencer’s prior claim to fame was leading the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. That rally ended in violence leaving an outright clash between Spencer’s followers and counter protesters. Spencer is known as a champion of white supremacy. When he announced that he was coming to Gainesville to deliver a speech, the university panicked. Initially, they tried banning his speech. Spencer countered by threatening to sue the university. He argued that he was allowed ...

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Why is public lynching becoming an acceptable form of vigilante justice in India and Pakistan?

It is unfortunate that unruly mobs are now hijacking civic spaces in India. With the confidence of being able to dissolve the unidentified in the crowd, the barbaric act of public lynching seems to have become the new norm. While Indian citizens geared up to kick off the nationwide #NotInMyName campaign against the on-going vigilante violence and mob lynching, a cold-blooded crowd stooped to demonic levels in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district by lynching a mentally challenged 42-year-old woman, Otera Bibi, on suspicions of child kidnapping and trafficking. (Viewer discretion advised: The following video contains graphic images) After beating her mercilessly for three hours by tying her to a tractor, the ...

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Why Taimoor Raza’s death sentence does not come as a surprise in Pakistan

Last week, an anti-terrorism court in Bahawalpur gave 30-year-old Taimoor Raza a death sentence for allegedly blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on social media. The verdict left many stunned since it was the first time a death sentence has been given to someone for their actions online. Yet, despite it being a shocking legal decision, it was not a surprising one. At least not for those of us who have been keeping up with the country’s constantly evolving crackdown on its citizens’ cyberspace activities. For years now, activists, politicians, and journalists have bemoaned the many ways that Pakistan’s antiquated blasphemy laws can be abused. Whether it is ...

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It’s time Nawaz Sharif realised the importance of women in politics

I am very much a child of the ‘90s. The decade has had a profound impact on my intellectual development and has ended up shaping my political ideology. It was during that time that I started to realise that religious extremism, mistreatment of women, political conservatism, and civil military imbalance were the gravest problems which Pakistan faced. It was during that decade when a string of  incidents involving blasphemy charges shook me to the core and changed me as a person. It was during that time when I began to realise that our mind-set is largely misogynist and our ...

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When Mashal Khan fell victim to our criminal mind-set

Yesterday, I received the news through a WhatsApp message wherein my younger brother sent me a video clip and requested me to watch it. Although the video was brief, about 45 seconds, but it was long enough to make me sick to my stomach. What I was seeing was barbarism at its worst – a large crowd beating an already dead man. Many were silently watching and no one was even trying to stop it. That video, along with many others, has gone viral. At a time when the global opinion about Muslims and Pakistan is already worsening, this ...

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The world will judge Islam by the way Muslims behave in the name of Islam

A year ago, the government took a bold decision by hanging Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of late Salman Taseer. The funeral, despite the media’s lack of coverage, was attended by thousands of people, highlighting the appeal of a man who was nothing but a murderer. One year later, thousands of hardliners defied the rally ban to attend his first death anniversary. The sad reality is that for many, Qadri is a hero, and the significant percentage of those who disagree with his actions have an “empathetic” attitude towards him. I have heard people coming up with all kinds of justifications ...

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Salman Haider cares more about Pakistan than any of his critics do!

Pakistan is in the international spotlight and once again for all the wrong reasons. Three weeks have passed and yet there has been no news of the whereabouts of the abducted liberal bloggers. What’s been making the news instead, is the vicious campaign against those bloggers and those supporting it. The main weapon is the allegation of ‘blasphemy’ which is now hurled at activists like Jibran Nasir as well. Charges of blasphemy are supplemented with accusations of treason against the state. These bloggers have so far not been brought to court despite the fact that there are laws governing the ‘crimes’ ...

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