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Monday, January 17, 2011

Why you don’t want the government running religion ...

Because some people really need a dose of: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ... but won’t get it, in any sense of the word.

Blasphemy in Pakistan: Moderation is now a capital offense.
Jan 24, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 18


by Nina Shea and Paul Marshall


While most of those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are Muslims, non-Muslim religious minorities suffer disproportionately: Though 5 percent of the population, they are half of those accused, and the testimony of one Muslim is sufficient to convict a non-Muslim. They also suffer increasing attacks by extremists. On August 1, 2009, after a Christian was accused of burning a Koran, a mob connected to the Taliban-linked Sipah-e-Sahaba attacked Christians in Korian and Gojra: They indiscriminately killed seven Christians, six of whom (including two children) were burned alive. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that police knew of the intended attack but did nothing to prevent it. And while the government has so far not executed those convicted of blasphemy, dozens of accused people have been assassinated by fanatics, even when their cases ended in acquittal.
Two of the five blasphemy laws are specifically aimed at the 3-million-member Ahmadi community, founded in 1889 by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in Qadian, now in India. Most Muslims reject Ghulam Ahmad’s teachings and believe that, contrary to Islam, he claimed to be a prophet. Although Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, they may be imprisoned for three years if they call themselves Muslims or their meeting places mosques. They are singled out for special vilification in Pakistan’s constitution and, to receive a Pakistani passport, a Muslim must declare “I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Quadiani to be an imposter Nabi [prophet] and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahori or Quadiani group, to be NON-MUSLIMS.” On May 28, 2010, gunmen attacked two Ahmadi houses of worship and killed 93 people attending Friday prayers.


The atmosphere stoked by the laws also contributes to violence between Sunni and Shia, as extremists castigate the others as blasphemers.


There are also attacks on Sufi shrines. On July 1, three bombers killed 45 people and left 175 wounded at the Data Darbar shrine commemorating the 10th-century Sufi Data Ganj Baksh. On October 25, bombs at a shrine in Pakpattan killed six people and left 15 injured. There is also now pressure for Ismaili Muslims, followers of the Aga Khan, to be declared non-Muslim, like the Ahmadis.

Muslim reformers are also targeted. After medical professor Mohammad Younas Shaikh, a member of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, raised questions about Pakistan’s policies in Kashmir, he was charged with having blasphemed in one of his classes. In 2001, he was sentenced to death. After two years in prison he was acquitted on retrial but had to flee the country to save his life. In 2007, Karachi’s Anti-Terrorism Court sentenced author Younus Sheikh to life imprisonment. The judge ruled that one of Sheikh’s books had denied the validity of Rajam, an Islamic punishment of stoning for adultery.
And in other news:
Iran Escalates Attacks on Christians

(National Review, January 10, 2011)

By Paul Marshall

In the 21st century, life has become increasingly inhospitable for Christians and other minorities in the Middle East. But, even against this backdrop, the last few months have witnessed an alarming increase in violence. Most of the recent large attacks have been by Sunni terrorists in Iraq and Egypt (see here, here, and here), but now the Iranian government seems determined to match that record.

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