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Old 02-27-2009, 05:59 PM   #1
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UN Stands Against Islamophobia - Regular Muslims Suffer

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Islamic countries Monday won United Nations backing for an anti-blasphemy measure Canada and other Western critics say risks being used to limit freedom of speech.

Combating Defamation of Religions passed 85–50 with 42 abstentions in a key UN General Assembly committee, and will enter into the international record after an expected rubber stamp by the plenary later in the year.

But while the draft’s sponsors say it and earlier similar measures are aimed at preventing violence against worshippers regardless of religion, religious tolerance advocates warn the resolutions are being accumulated for a more sinister goal.

“It provides international cover for domestic anti-blasphemy laws, and there are a number of people who are in prison today because they have been accused of committing blasphemy,” said Bennett Graham, international program director with the Becket Fund, a think tank aimed at promoting religious liberty.

“Those arrests are made legitimate by the UN body’s (effective) stamp of approval.”

Passage of the resolution is part of a 10-year action plan the 57-state Organization of Islamic Conference launched in 2005 to ensure “renaissance” of the “Muslim Ummah” or community.

While the current resolution is non-binding, Pakistan’s Ambassador Masood Khan reminded the UN’s Human Rights Council this year that the OIC ultimately seeks a “new instrument or convention” on the issue. Such a measure would impose its terms on signatory states.

“Each time the resolution comes up, we get a measure of where the world is on this issue, and we see that the campaign has been ramped up,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based monitoring group UN Watch.

While this year’s draft is less Islam-centric that resolutions of earlier years, analysts note it is more emphatic in linking religion defamation and incitement to violence.

That “risks limiting a broad range of peaceful speech and expression,” Neuer argues.

The 2008 draft “underscores the need to combat defamation of religions, and incitement to religious hatred in general, by strategizing and harmonizing actions at the local, national regional and international levels.”

It also laments “Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism.”

But Western democracies argue that a religion can’t enjoy protection from criticism because that would require a judicial ruling that its teachings are the “truth.”

“Defamation carries a particular legal meaning and application in domestic systems that makes the term wholly unsuitable in the context of religions,” says the U.S. government in a response on the issue to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“A defamatory statement . . . is more than just an offensive one. It is also a statement that is false.”

The paper also points out the legal difficulty of even defining the term “defamation” since “one individual’s sincere belief that his or her creed alone is the truth conflicts with another’s sincerely held view of the truth.”

Yemen, on behalf of OIC, successfully introduced the measure to the UN General Assembly for the first time in 2005 after Pakistan first tabled it 1999 for annual consideration in the Human Rights Commission - the Council’s forerunner.

Canada and other Western countries emphasize the distinction between granting an “idea” rights - and defending the right of people not to be discriminated against.

“Canada rejects the basic premise that religions have rights; human rights belong to human beings,” said Catherine Loubier, spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon.

“The focus (here) should not be on protecting religions, but rather on protecting the rights of the adherents of religions, including of people belonging to religious minorities, or people who may choose to change their religion, or not to practice religion at all.”

Muslim countries say they are only trying to cut down of what they see as extensive bias against Islam in the West. In the lead-up to Monday’s vote, many referred, for example, to the 2005 publication of Danish cartoons that satirized Muhammad, and which touched off riots through the Muslim world.

“Everybody is aware that there is a campaign in certain media to fuel the fire of incitement to hatred and to disfigure certain persons or figures through caricature,” said one Sudanese diplomat.

But supporters of the Western position say the resolution and its predecessors contribute to increasing discrimination based on religion.

“From the human rights side of things, this is the opposite of what is supposed to be happening,” said Becket’s Graham. “Instead of protecting an individual, this resolution protects an idea, and relies on hurt feelings as a source of judgment. It can only lead to a jurisprudence of hurt feelings.”

Canada says governments have abused laws against defamation or contempt of religions to “prosecute and imprison journalists, bloggers, academics students and peaceful political dissidents.”

The Iranian parliament, for example, is currently weighing a draft amendment to its penal code that would impose capital punishment for apostasy.

But in an irony given Canada’s stance, an anti-blasphemy law remains in the Criminal Code. Experts point out it has not been used for a prosecution in more than 70 years.

There’s also consensus among opponents of the UN measure that people most likely to be targeted by anti-blasphemy laws are Muslims in Muslim countries.

“Pakistan has the (toughest) anti-blasphemy laws, and while they are certainly used against lots of minority religions, they are used mainly against Muslims,” said Graham.

“They have been used to intimidate business partners, suppress any reformist ideas, jail people who discuss women’s rights.”

But he also noted that anti-blasphemy themes have been cited in countries that are predominantly non-Muslim.

“There are cases in Russia dealing people suing TV stations for airing South Park and the Simpsons because they see them as defamatory to Christianity,” he explained.

“A lot of the violence in India dealing with Hindus and Christians is being spurred on by accusations that Hindu gods are being defamed, while there are also cases against artists in India for depicting Hindu gods in modernist way.”
UN anti-blasphemy measures have sinister goals, observers say
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Old 02-28-2009, 07:09 PM   #2
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Regular Muslims Suffer
That is a very good point which often gets lost in outrage over the Danish cartoons riots and the like; that these 'defamation of religions' resolutions also serve to shield authoritarian governments from criticism in their clampdowns on activists protesting human rights abuses committed in the name of religion, an all-too-frequent occurrence in much of the world. Unfortunately, having spent a considerable amount of time in India where the censorship or arrest of artists and journalists for offending religious sensibilities is not uncommon, I find it hard to be optimistic that this picture will change drastically anytime soon, because such laws in fact often enjoy widespread popular support--or at the very least don't arouse much popular condemnation. To an extent, I think this standoff is an expression of a broader cultural gap between the West--specifically, the nations of Western Europe plus US/Can/Aus/NZ--and much of the rest of the world concerning the place of individualism in political culture. We tend to conceive of the state's responsibilities towards its citizens first and foremost in terms of defending individual liberties, which are to be limited only when they pose a direct physical threat to others. But in much of the rest of the world, the paradigm is more one of the state preserving peace between groups rather than individuals, and defending the 'character' of its people in general. And in many cases, this is not just an abstraction--for instance, riots along religious, caste, or occasionally ethnic lines triggered by a newspaper editorial, a movie, or a novel are not at all unheard of in India (though of course legal retribution for such 'provocations' isn't distributed equally; Hindu-supremacist groups are more likely to get away with extremely vulgar anti-Muslim rhetoric that culminates in riots than the reverse, for example). And particularly when much of the world has got it into their heads that 'free speech' attacking Islam has been a prime enabler of neoconservative foreign policy agendas in the West, and the resulting military actions and saber-rattling towards countries that just happen to be Muslim, it can become difficult for the Westerner abroad to make much headway arguing the case that freedom of speech concerning religion is a noble ideal which empowers rather than threatens the vulnerable, and matures and invigorates solidarity though democracy rather than destabilizing it.
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Old 02-28-2009, 09:27 PM   #3
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The War on Islamophobia is a hoax.
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Old 03-01-2009, 12:05 PM   #4
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I didn't read past the 4th paragraph of the article, but I just want to comment on how awesome it is that the international think-tank to promote religious liberty is called the Becket Fund.

Thomas Becket - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Old 12-16-2010, 02:31 AM   #5
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The 'defamation of religions' resolution is once again coming up for a vote in the UN, next week.
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Woman Faces Death in Pakistan for Blasphemy--Will the UN Support Similar Measures?
Human Rights First, Dec. 15


Last month, on November 8, a Pakistani woman from Punjab was sentenced to death by hanging under section 295-C of the country’s blasphemy code--which carries a mandatory death sentence for defaming the Prophet Mohammed. Aasia Bibi, a Christian farm worker and mother of five, was accused of making blasphemous comments, following a run-in with Muslim co-workers who refused to drink from a container of water she carried, believing it to be tainted. [as in spiritually polluting, not as in poisoned ~y.]

On November 29, the Lahore High Court barred Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari from issuing a pardon until her appeal has been exhausted. That could take years--and Bibi has already been in jail since June. Meanwhile, extremists have threatened to take the law into their own hands if Aasia Bibi is released. An imam from a local mosque has offered a $6000 (500,000 rupee) reward to anyone who takes her life--if the death sentence is not upheld. Due to death threats and verbal and physical attacks, her husband and children have been forced into hiding. Life as this family knew it--regardless of the outcome of the case--is not possible. Even if acquitted, those charged with blasphemy in Pakistan are marked for life. Canada and Italy have offered asylum to the entire family.

Unfortunately, Aasia Bibi’s case is not unique. There are scores of cases from around the globe that provide ample warning of the dangers of enacting a global blasphemy law. Human Rights First recently released a report entitled Blasphemy Laws Exposed: The Consequences of Criminalizing "Defamation of Religions", which documents more than 50 cases in 15 countries where blasphemy and similar laws have been abused. Let’s hope the UN delegates are taking note as they prepare to take up this important issue.

Next week, the UN General Assembly will be voting on a controversial resolution entitled "Combating defamation of religions" introduced by Morocco on behalf of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Supporters of this resolution seek to create internationally-binding blasphemy laws, and claim that such laws are necessary to fight discrimination and protect freedom of religion. In reality, local blasphemy laws are often abused to stifle discussion and dissent, violate freedom of religion and expression--and, as in the case of Aasia Bibi, to settle private disputes motivated by jealousy and rivalry. Blasphemy laws have provoked devastating--and in some instances fatal--consequences for individuals who deviate from the mainstream religion or belong to a minority faith in many of the same countries that support this resolution. Though this year’s resolution will certainly pass again, the good news is that support for it has diminished significantly since it was introduced more than 10 years ago and the resolution is likely to pass with the slimmest margin of support yet.

That eroding support can also be seen beyond the UN building. For example, in response to the grave injustice seen in the case of Aasia Bibi, a bill to amend Pakistan’s blasphemy laws has been introduced in the National Assembly by the prominent politician, Sherry Rehman. Among other changes, the bill would eliminate the death sentence for those convicted of committing blasphemy and replace it with a ten-year prison term. The bill is intended to “ensure that all citizens of Pakistan have an equal right to constitutional protection and that miscarriages of justice in the name of blasphemy are avoided at all costs.” Sherry Rehman noted that “the amendment to the Blasphemy Laws Act 2010 will not only rationalize the punishment prescribed for offenses relating to religion under sections 295 and 298 of the Pakistani Penal Code, but it will ensure that the concept of criminal intent is taken into account when charging an individual with this offense.”...Even so, this proposal--which still leaves in place laws that violate international standards–-has been met with overwhelming resistance by extremists. The fear of appearing “un-Islamic” has deterred advocates for change from publicly declaring their solidarity. The lives of Pakistani Minister for Minority Affairs Shabaz Bhatti, and others who have spoken out against the death sentence, have been threatened.

All UN delegations should vote against the “defamation of religions” resolution on the grounds that it fails to recognize the importance of freedom of expression and provides explicit support for national blasphemy and defamation laws. Another strategy is needed: one that both supports existing international norms on freedom of expression and confronts directly the growing problem of hostility and violence targeting members of religious and other minorities.
Other than the gender of the accused, the Aasia Bibi case is depressingly typical of the cynical ends to which Pakistan's blasphemy law is generally put: the burden of proof on the accuser is virtually nonexistent and so, as the activist in the OP article observes, it's a highly effective and convenient way "to intimidate business partners, suppress any reformist ideas, jail people who discuss women’s rights," or in Bibi's case, to keep the lower castes in their place. In theory, it's 'just' a concession to Islam's special place in the national culture; in practice, it's one more means of chipping away bit by bit at the promises of individual rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution, an aid to the fundamentalist rejection of modernity and the threat it poses to the traditional social order.
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Old 01-09-2011, 07:22 PM   #6
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Just_Boy alluded to this story in deep's 'Absolutely Disgusted' thread, but that didn't seem like the place for further comment, so I thought I'd do it here:

The Aasia Bibi 'blasphemy' case (see my post above) has taken on an ugly new twist after the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province was assassinated following his public expressions of support for Aasia Bibi, as well as his opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy laws:
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Assassination Deepens Divide in Pakistan

The emotional funeral of the assassinated governor of Punjab and the cheering of his killer in court Wednesday highlighted the intensifying struggle between secular and religious forces in Pakistan that has grown nastier than ever in the country’s history. As the 26-year-old assassin, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, appeared before a magistrate in Islamabad, to be charged with murder and terrorism, he was showered by hundreds of supporters with rose petals and garlands. Moderate religious leaders refused to condemn the assassination, and some hard-line religious leaders appeared obliquely to condone the attack. Meanwhile, thousands of mourners thronged to the funeral in Lahore of the governor, Salman Taseer, a prominent voice for secularism who had recently become the focus of religious fury for speaking out against the nation’s strict blasphemy laws.

Many of the nation’s top politicians, including Mr. Taseer’s chief rival in Punjab and the leader of the opposition, Nawaz Sharif, did not attend the services. Neither did President Asif Ali Zardari, a friend and ally of Mr. Taseer, but out concern for his own security. Government ministers and party officials indicated that they were dropping the campaign to change the blasphemy laws that Mr. Taseer had championed. No senior official would be drawn to comment on the religious extremist aspect of the killing at the funeral.
Those who did comment, indicated a shift in the government position, by suggesting the killing was a political murder and a conspiracy, rather than a religiously motivated attack. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureishi avoided all comment and merely expressed his condolences to the family when approached by journalists. The Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, went as far as to say he would shoot any blasphemer himself.

“We have a very, very severe polarization in the country,” said journalist and author Ahmed Rashid, an expert on the Taliban and radical Islamism. “We have a small minority of extremists and small number of liberals speaking out, but the very large silent majority are people who are not extremist in any way but are not speaking out.” Yet as the economic, political and social problems mount and extremism spreads, there is no sign of leadership from the government, he complained.

...The assassin, Mr. Qadri, hails from Bhara Kahu, a suburb of Islamabad, currently lives with his family in Muslim Town, a neighborhood of Rawalpindi, the military garrison town adjacent to Islamabad. A follower of Dawat-e-Islami, a religious party based in Karachi, Mr. Qadri had joined the Special Forces branch of the Punjab police in 2002. At that time, he was declared a security risk because of his extreme religious views and sectarian activities during a routine check by his superior, according to a senior Pakistani police official. In 2008, Mr. Qadri nonetheless managed to join the Elite Force of Punjab police, and had been assigned to guard the governor, raising alarming questions about the vetting and screening of security personnel, former police officials and associates of the former governor said. At a market in Islamabad on Tuesday, Mr. Qadri pumped more than 20 rounds into Mr. Taseer’s back, Pakistani media reported, and yet was not fired on by any other member of the security detail, raising still more questions about whether any of the others knew of his plans in advance.

In contrast to the muted response of Mr. Taseer’s mourners, the supporters of Mr. Qadri were boisterous Wednesday. Lawyers who campaigned so vociferously two years ago against the military dictator Pervez Musharraf in the name of the constitution and the rule of law were among those who feted the suspect when he arrived at court Wednesday. Some volunteered to defend him free of charge.

...A former cabinet minister and leading member of the 2007 lawyers’ movement, Athar Minallah, said only a few extremists within the legal community would really support the killing of Mr. Taseer. “Among the 100,000 lawyers in Pakistan, less than half a percent would go out and throw petals on this criminal, but the rest are hostages because the government is not providing any security, and why should I risk my life and that of my family,” he said. He pointed out that the religious parties have never done well at the polls and that the voting public, when given the chance, do not choose extremism. Yet blasphemy is such an emotive subject in Pakistan that the day after such a high-profile murder, many seemed to side with the murderer, possibly for fear of being accused themselves.

Maulana Fazalur Rehman, the leader of Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazal, a Deobandi religious party, which left the federal cabinet last month, seemed to issue a veiled warning to supporters of Mr. Taseer, saying that sympathizing with a blasphemer was just as extreme as blasphemy itself. More than 500 religious leaders of Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat, a leading Barelvi religious party, forbade its followers to either pray or attend the funeral prayers for Mr. Taseer, reported Jang, the country’s leading Urdu newspaper in its Wednesday issue. “No Muslim should attend the funeral or even try to pray for Salman Taseer or even express any kind of regret or sympathy over the incident,” read a statement attributed to the religious clerics.

...Half a dozen policemen interviewed while on duty around the city of Lahore voiced support for the assassin or refused to condemn the murder. “He acted according to his conscience,” one said. “What is done is Allah’s will,” another said. The policemen spoke to a journalist without giving their names.
Sherry Rehman, the Pakistani MP optimistically cited in the article in my previous post as the voice of a more reasoned future, has now gone into hiding; President Zardari, forbidden by the courts to pardon Aasia Bibi, seems too weak politically to take a stand on the blasphemy law. I wish I believed the Obama Administration were in a position to quietly but effectively exert some diplomatic influence in this frightening and disheartening latest showdown in Islamabad, but unfortunately I doubt that in the extreme.

Ahmed Rashid's complaint about the "silent majority" does strike me as uncharacteristically naive, though to be fair, the full context of it isn't clear here. As Athar Minallah points out, if this is what the caliber of security provided to high-ranking political officials looks like, why should anyone expect rank-and-file Pakistanis to feel safe speaking out against the extremists and their allies (of both the ideological and cynical varieties) in the government? And for that matter, while it's true that the statistically average Pakistani is no fervent militant Islamist, how deep does his/her trust likely run in the 'alternative' embodied by the secularist politicians--wealthy, Western-educated, landholding-class elites who typically pay little or no taxes, are protected by dual citizenship, have long exploited the 'internal security' rationale to justify gross human rights violations against nonviolent separatists and regional-/ethnic-minority activists, and have historically more often fleeced, obstructed, or just plain ignored rank-and-file constitutents who above all seek better educational and employment opportunities, rather than delivering on their campaign promises of them? The dangerous tension between religious and secular visions of national identity may be inherent in Pakistan's very existence, but the consistent historical failure of Pakistan's progressive political classes to act as a true voice of the people continues to rot whatever foundations for functional statehood still exist. And all that's leaving alone the effects of our presence next door.
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Old 01-10-2011, 08:44 AM   #7
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In Karachi, 50,000 rally behind blasphemy law

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Shouting anti-government slogans, thousands of people on Sunday marched in Pakistan's financial capital to oppose any amendments to the controversial blasphemy law. Radical Muslim leaders who led the rally praised Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the man charged with killing Punjab governor Salman Taseer, as a hero of Islam. In Islamabad and Lahore, hundreds of Christians took part in Sunday Mass, paying tribute to the slain governor. Benedict XVI today also referred to the blasphemy law in a speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican. In it, he said that the law violates the “right to religious freedom” and urged the Pakistani government to take the necessary steps to repeal it. Saudi newspaper Arab News published a long editorial article on the assassination of the Punjab governor, whose fight against violence and fanaticism “turned him into a martyr”.

Yesterday, 50,000 people invaded downtown Karachi to hail Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the murderer of Salman Taseer, the governor targeted by fundamentalists because he had dubbed the blasphemy law as a “black law”. Organised by Islamic extremist groups, the rally saw the participation of outlawed Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed. Wearing green headbands and holding flags with Qur‘anic verses inscribed on them, hundreds of young people, some of them wielding sticks, shouted slogans against the Pakistani government and the United States.

Fazlur Rehman, head of the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema Islam and speaker at Sunday's demonstration, said that Taseer "was responsible for his own murder" because he had criticised the law.

Other speakers told the crowd that the law “is divine” and that “nobody can change it." They also called for a “long march to Islamabad” and other demonstrations “across the country.”

Benedict XVI spoke today about the blasphemy law in his address to the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See. The Pope said that “particular mention must be made of the law against blasphemy in Pakistan” because it violates religious freedom. He urged government authorities in Pakistan “to take the necessary steps to abrogate that law [. . .] because it is clear that it serves as a pretext for acts of injustice and violence against religious minorities. The tragic murder of the governor of Punjab shows the urgent need to make progress in this direction”.

Christians gathered yesterday across the country for Sunday Mass to remember Salman Taseer. In Islamabad, they gathered at Our Lady of Fatima Church. "We are here to pray for him because he was murdered because of our cause, and because he was campaigning for justice for Christians in Pakistan and peace for the world," Father Anwar Patras Gill said.

In Lahore, prayers were said for the governor. “We dedicate this day to him," Fr Daniel Habib said in the cathedral ahead of Mass before a gathering of 250 worshippers.

In the meantime, the authorities have increased security around the residence of Sherry Rehman, in Karachi, fearing possible attacks. A former Information minister and a member of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), she is among the promoters of changes to the blasphemy law.

“They can't silence me,” she told AsiaNews, and “They can't decide what we think or speak, these are man-made laws."

The assassination of the governor of Punjab has been front-page news around the world. Saudi newspaper Arab News published a lengthy editorial on the matter. In it, the newspaper praised the courage of Salman Taseer whose bitter opposition to “extremism and violence cost him his life” and “turned him into a martyr”.

The paper called his killer “a heartless, grinning murderer and an ignorant instrument of evil”, ending its editorial with an appeal to the country’s leaders to stand up and rally against the deviant forces that threatened to bring darkness to Pakistan and Islam.
PAKISTAN In Karachi, 50,000 rally behind blasphemy law - Asia News

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It is a matter of great shame that instead of providing adequate security to Ms Rehman, the PPP is trying to abandon her. The PPP isolated Governor Taseer but he refused to cow down before the right-wing forces because he was a man of principles. In the end, he was martyred. At a time when the PPP has lost its sitting governor due to religious fanaticism and another leading PPP member’s life is in danger, the interior minister of our country ‘advises’ the latter to flee Pakistan. On the other hand, civil society and other concerned citizens of Karachi have taken up Ms Rehman’s cause, which is commendable.
Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan
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Old 01-10-2011, 08:44 AM   #8
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This is wicked !
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Old 01-10-2011, 01:21 PM   #9
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The world is a fucked up place. That's all I can say.
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Old 01-10-2011, 10:19 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by yolland View Post
I wish I believed the Obama Administration were in a position to quietly but effectively exert some diplomatic influence in this frightening and disheartening latest showdown in Islamabad, but unfortunately I doubt that in the extreme.
I fully agree, I'd love to see that, too. I don't know how much can be done, though, the anti-blasphemy side seems pretty set in its ways and they'd likely just see it as more negative Western influence into their culture.

Course, who knows, the administration could well be talking out what to do to help fix this problem, they're just not making it public for obvious reasons.

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Originally Posted by yolland View Post
As Athar Minallah points out, if this is what the caliber of security provided to high-ranking political officials looks like, why should anyone expect rank-and-file Pakistanis to feel safe speaking out against the extremists and their allies (of both the ideological and cynical varieties) in the government?
This is the argument I've always made. It's easy for us to sit here and wonder why more in the Middle East don't speak up when extremists say and do horrible things, we're not going through the sort of intimidation they are.

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Originally Posted by yolland View Post
And for that matter, while it's true that the statistically average Pakistani is no fervent militant Islamist, how deep does his/her trust likely run in the 'alternative' embodied by the secularist politicians--wealthy, Western-educated, landholding-class elites who typically pay little or no taxes, are protected by dual citizenship, have long exploited the 'internal security' rationale to justify gross human rights violations against nonviolent separatists and regional-/ethnic-minority activists, and have historically more often fleeced, obstructed, or just plain ignored rank-and-file constitutents who above all seek better educational and employment opportunities, rather than delivering on their campaign promises of them?
Exactly. They don't really have anyone to turn to. The extremists overpower them, the West has let them down, they're pretty much left to fend for themselves. And in a situation like this, you need all the help you can get.

All I know is, if ever there was an argument for why church and state must remain completely separate, this would be it.

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Old 01-11-2011, 04:28 PM   #11
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All I know is, if ever there was an argument for why church and state must remain completely separate, this would be it.
Agreed in the sense that, politically speaking, I'm as committed a secularist as the next Westerner. But in an immediate law-and-order sense--one that's drawn international expressions of shock and alarm even from conservative Muslim countries with blasphemy laws of their own--it's the apparent total lack of effective governance that's the most disturbing feature here. From a hardnosed noninterventionist perspective: OK, so you want to have harsh blasphemy laws, fine, have harsh blasphemy laws. But for f's sake, it's THE STATE that holds sole prerogative to define the scope of those laws, to oversee their proper enforcement, and to discipline political officials who subvert them. Don't just stand there helplessly wringing your hands and blustering, "Oh my, this is a very mysterious conspiracy, we'll have to investigate this" as members of your elite military police forces take it upon themselves to assassinate dissenting politicians and level death threats at MPs, as High Court lawyers shower the assassin with rose petals upon arraignment, as tens of thousands of radicals and allied national party leaders shut down your financial capital to publically rally round the assassin, unnerving the public and leaving them to wonder who exactly is even minding the ship at this point.

Just a few months ago, there was much muttering in Western capitals as to whether Gen. Kayani might be seriously contemplating a restoration of military rule. My guess is some of those mutterings will now start to turn towards, how bad would--will--Kayani allow things to get before stepping in?
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Old 01-13-2011, 09:41 PM   #12
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And, as most of you know, that rebel from Nazareth is an open target.

Blasphemy laws do not apply.
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Old 01-13-2011, 10:11 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by yolland View Post
Agreed in the sense that, politically speaking, I'm as committed a secularist as the next Westerner. But in an immediate law-and-order sense--one that's drawn international expressions of shock and alarm even from conservative Muslim countries with blasphemy laws of their own--it's the apparent total lack of effective governance that's the most disturbing feature here. From a hardnosed noninterventionist perspective: OK, so you want to have harsh blasphemy laws, fine, have harsh blasphemy laws. But for f's sake, it's THE STATE that holds sole prerogative to define the scope of those laws, to oversee their proper enforcement, and to discipline political officials who subvert them. Don't just stand there helplessly wringing your hands and blustering, "Oh my, this is a very mysterious conspiracy, we'll have to investigate this" as members of your elite military police forces take it upon themselves to assassinate dissenting politicians and level death threats at MPs, as High Court lawyers shower the assassin with rose petals upon arraignment, as tens of thousands of radicals and allied national party leaders shut down your financial capital to publically rally round the assassin, unnerving the public and leaving them to wonder who exactly is even minding the ship at this point.

Just a few months ago, there was much muttering in Western capitals as to whether Gen. Kayani might be seriously contemplating a restoration of military rule. My guess is some of those mutterings will now start to turn towards, how bad would--will--Kayani allow things to get before stepping in?
Excellent point. It's truly chilling to think that the government is powerless to stop the military like that. And to think that some of them support the horrors going on. I'm trying to imagine that scenario happening here in the States and...ugh. So many nightmare images. Suddenly Eisenhower's mention of the dangers of the "military-industrial complex" comes to mind.

That's a good question regarding the military rule, too, I suspect that's probably going to be what'll happen.

I feel for the people of Pakistan. I really, really do. They are so beyond screwed right now. And yet we still sit here sometimes scratching our heads at why they get so angry, violent, and despondent.

Angela
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Old 01-13-2011, 10:32 PM   #14
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And, as most of you know, that rebel from Nazareth is an open target.

Blasphemy laws do not apply.
In Pakistan, you mean? In principle, no--Jesus is considered a prophet in Islam, therefore to "derogate" him would constitute blasphemy under the law (hence, for instance, The Da Vinci Code was banned in Pakistan as "blasphemy" against Jesus). But, in practice, I don't think there's ever been an instance of someone from one of the minority sects routinely targeted for "blasphemy" (Ahmaddiya Muslims, Christians, Hindus) bringing charges against a Sunni or Shia under the law--that'd be rather like an African-American in 1950s Mississippi charging a white person with rape: they'd more likely wind up murdered, with the local authorities' tacit blessing, than actually rendered justice, even though in principle the laws were supposed to protect them too. In both cases, the effect of the laws as enforced is far more to protect a certain social order than to actually protect any specific 'values' supposedly enshrined in whichever specific law. Aasia Bibi's case is a perfect example--no one who's actually studied the case believes for a second that she ever "derogated" Muhammad; rather, what started off the conflict--as her accuser unashamedly acknowledges--is that Bibi was a Dalit ("Untouchable") who had the audacity not only to offer her higher-caste fellow fieldworkers water from her own bowl, but also to defend her worthiness to do so. But, caste discrimination is illegal in Pakistan, so they couldn't go after her on those grounds; ergo, fabricated tales of "derogating Muhammad" to the rescue (of their offended sense of honor).
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Old 02-12-2012, 04:45 AM   #15
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al Jazeera, Feb. 12
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Malaysia has deported a young Saudi journalist who is wanted in his home country over Twitter posts about the Prophet Mohammad that sparked calls for his execution, the Malaysian government has confirmed.

Hamza Kashgari, who was detained in Malaysia on Thursday after fleeing Saudi Arabia, left the country in the custody of Saudi officials on Sunday, a statement of the Malaysian Home Ministery said. Kashgari, a 23-year-old Jeddah-based newspaper columnist, fled to Muslim-majority Malaysia after making comments on the microblogging site deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, which fuelled a surge of outrage in the kingdom. Insulting the prophet is considered blasphemous in Islam and is a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

...Muhammad Afiq Mohamad Nor, a lawyer appointed by Kashgari's family, said the move was unlawful because he had obtained a court order to block the deportation. "We are concerned that he would not face a fair trial back home and that he could face the death penalty if he is charged with apostasy," the lawyer told the Associated Press news agency.

Clerics and locals in the kingdom have called for Kashgari's death for three comments he made on Twitter on the occasion of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday. "On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more," read one tweet posted on Saturday. All three tweets were later deleted by Kashgari, who received over 30,000 responses within a day of the postings.

...Rights groups have said Kashgari was en route to New Zealand when he was detained.
My guess is Amnesty International will have a petition up about this within a couple days. On Thursday some Egyptian guy started a petition (in English) on the Care2 site which drew several thousand signatures over the next couple days, many of them from Saudis; unfortunately, as the purpose of that petition was to demand Malaysian authorities not deport Kashgari, it's now been rendered moot.
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