Will the moderates please stand up?

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Photo Courtesy: Express Tribune


You know you are  living in tough times when Afghanistan sends financial aid and when Saudi Arabia points out the rise of extremism in your country. Governor Salman Taseer’s murder has triggered a round of reactions about the current state of Pakistan on both, national and international platforms.

The assassination of Governor Taseer and especially the reactions that followed in the aftermath are a huge setback for Pakistan. Governor Taseer’s death not only highlights the rampant intolerance and bigotry but also the loopholes in our struggle against extremism. However, it is worth mentioning that extremism, with respect to Pakistan, is a deeply polarised phenomenon. Contrary to popular belief, Governor Taseer’s assassination is not the death of liberalism in Pakistan; rather a huge setback for human rights and the struggle for justice.

The blasphemy law issue is not a conservative vs. liberal scenario. It is about pressing for counter abuse of the law and extra-judicial killings. One of the main reasons why the debate regarding the blasphemy law has been blown out of proportion is because we cannot help avoid cliches and labels. Realistically, our focus should be on solving the issue rather than getting into battle of ideologies and name-calling.

Therefore, to be able to reach a mutual consensus we must look at the situation in black and white. Let’s take a look at popular beliefs and misconceptions regarding the blasphemy law.

Those in favour: These people believe that an insult or abuse to Islam or the Quran or the Prophet (PBUH) is a crime worthy of punishment. Therefore, any movement that asks for repeal of the law is seen as a threat to protection of Islam, Quran and the Prophet (PBUH).

Those against: They believe that the law in the Constitution has been abused to justify extra-judicial killings. They also believe that modifications in the law during General Ziaul Haq’s era has given rise to an extremist mindset and provided room for persecution of minorities. Their stance is based on the rampant abuse of the law over the years.

The misconceptions: Those in favour of the law believe that anyone who wants amendments to the law or wants it repealed, is justifying insults to Islam, the Quran or the Prophet (PBUH). Whereas, those who are against the law believe favoring the law is justifying the abuse and persecution of a certain sect.

The reality however, is rather simple and glaringly obvious. The blasphemy law has been abused over the years, resulting in extrajudicial killings. However, that should be a matter of concern for both in favour and against the law. The deeply polarised stance overlooks the real issue which infact needs our immediate attention; the abuse of the law. No religion or judicial system allows room for abuse of laws. Laws are meant to punish perpetrators and not to promote lawlessness. If we look at counter-abuse of laws specifically in the light of Islam it is be exceptionally clear that Islam emphasises on curbing the abuse of laws. The punishment for a false accusation, according to Islamic laws, is greater than that of the abuse itself. This is to ensure that justice is served and that lawlessness is curbed. The point we are missing here is that, one does not need to be a liberal to protest against violence and murder. It’s not about right- or left-leaning views, it is about human rights that transcends all stereotypes.

The need of the hour is to unite and clarify our stance, identify the real issues and promote an open dialogue. A public discourse can only be possible when activists and clerics come together to resolve the issue with a mutual consensus. The issue is that of abuse and wrongful accusations which can only be resolved by means of activism both religious and political.

Why is it we need to label ourselves? Why must we be categorised as “liberals,” “champions of human rights” and “secular?” Moderation is key. The “are you with us or against us” question will only result in backlash when in fact the question we should be asking is, “can we unite to curb abuse, injustice and lawlessness?”

Instead of rallying for or against the laws, we need to rally against hate mongers, hijackers of Islam and promoters of lawlessness. Let’s rally to restore sanity (quiet literally).



26 thoughts on “Will the moderates please stand up?

  1. Question: “can we unite to curb abuse, injustice and lawlessness?”

    Answer: Are you saying that the love of the holy prophet is “abuse”? are you saying that killing someone who has said something bad about the prophet an “injustice”? and is carrying out the bidding of Islam “lawlessness”?

    “we need to rally against hate mongers, hijackers of Islam and promoters of lawlessness.”

    How is the “liberal” message different from this conclusion? Is anyone from the liberals hate mongering? or promoting violence against the mullahs?

  2. This article and the comments above seem to me to be the death knell of society in Pakistan. I’ve been following your blog for a year or so now, and have never felt so hopeless.
    The moment you claim that the intent of the law is acceptable, not the implementation, you’ve lost so much. Is it not possible to live in society and simply ask “What is the Prophet to me?” It is not a crime to question dogma. I think most genuine believers have to find faith themselves. And that often requires them to lose faith for a while.

  3. “और वह उन की आंखों से सब आंसू पोंछ डालेगा; और इस के बाद मृत्यु न रहेगी, और न शोक, न विलाप, न पीड़ा रहेगी; पहिली बातें जाती रहीं।”Revelation 21:4
    “और जो सिंहासन पर बैठा था, उस ने कहा, कि देख, मैं सब कुछ नया कर देता हूं: फिर उस ने कहा, कि लिख ले, क्योंकि ये वचन विश्वास के योग्य और सत्य हैं।”Revelation 21:5
    “फिर उस ने मुझ से कहा, ये बातें पूरी हो गई हैं, मैं अलफा और ओमिगा, आदि और अन्त हूं: मैं प्यासे को जीवन के जल के सोते में से सेंतमेंत पिलाउंूगा।”Revelation 21:6
    “जो जय पाए, वही उन वस्तुओं का वारिस होगा; और मैं उसका परमेश्वर होउंूगा, और वह मेरा पुत्र होगा।”Revelation 21:7

    “पर डरपोकों, और अविश्वासियों, और घिनौनों, और हत्यारों, और व्यभिचारियों, और टोन्हों, और मूर्तिपूजकों, और सब झूठों का भाग उस झील में मिलेगा, जो आग और गन्धक से जलती रहती हैः यह दूसरी मृत्यु है।।”Revelation 21:8

  4. Revelation 21:27
    “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

    “और उस में कोई अपवित्र वस्तु या घृणित काम करनेवाला, या झूठ का गढ़नेवाला, किसी रीति से प्रवेश न करेगा; पर केवल वे लोग जिन के नाम मेम्ने के जीवन की पुस्तक में लिखे हैं।।”

  5. Revelation 21:4
    “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
    Revelation 21:5
    “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”
    Revelation 21:6
    “And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”
    Revelation 21:7
    “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”
    Revelation 21:8
    “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the
    abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

  6. Shazia and Vakaas, you have both managed to spectacularly miss the point. Take off your self-righteous caps for a moment and think about this objectively.

    Sana, thank you for posting this video as a reply. It gives me a little hope. Salut to maulana sahib and express news for having the courage to tell the truth in today’s poisoned atmosphere. Chaa gaye hain.

  7. Being the governor of the largest province of the ISLAMIC republic of Pakistan he should have been very CAREFUL in airing his views on the law as it is a very very sensitive issue.

  8. It is disgusting to see literate and educated people exaggerating and manipulating facts relating the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. I can’t understand if someone kills anyone on pretext of blasphemy without taking him/her to court, then where is the fault with law? It is a reality that no one is ever hanged by a court in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy then how could you say that the blasphemy law is being misused? What if we totally repeal the law, would people stop killing others on pretext of blasphemy? I think no, instead such instances would rise as the people who believe in law and use it to solve blasphemy would also join the extremists. It is same as if someone kills other extra-judicially on pretext of land grabbing, we start arguing about law against land grabbers.
    Please do not try to divide people among liberals, extremists and moderates as there is no such classification in Pakistan.

  9. I just stumbled across your blog, and I have to commend you for your honest and thoughtful reflections on Pakistani society – it is much needed. And the heat you get for your words are a sign that you’re doing something right. 😉 I’ll be a regular visitor from now on.

  10. at the end of the day he got what he deserved, he was a sinner and me being a british muslim and pakistan being an so called islamic country abides by these rules and you people have to abide by these rules as we do in this country, he got what he got, the blasphemy law is legal in islamic countries so where is the problem in that??????????

  11. The murder cannot be justified as a muslim.
    Our PROPHET (peace be on him) had a women who threw garbage and dirt on his head everyday.
    Did our beloved PROPHET condemn her to death.
    No, the Prophet took care of her when she was too sick to throw garbage at her.
    She converted.
    Prophet told us to be good and forgiving. and saying names or bad things dont matter .
    Allah knows all.
    We are being misled by so called religious leaders for their political means.
    The moderates are too scared to speak.
    But we have to speak if we love our religion and our country.

    1. I fully agree with the views expressed. Congratulations for
      the stand you took regarding this killing.

    1. Shazia,

      I agree with you, they should be punished, but who has given us the right to decide their punishment. Have we lost faith in God almighty? Allah clearly says in the Qura’an that He alone is responsible for putting these people to justice, then who are you and I to decide?

      In Pakistan, we can tolerate blasphemy towards Allah (by allowing polytheist practices) but we cannot tolerate blasphemy towards the Prophet (pbuh)? Is the status of Prophet (pbuh) (God forbid) above than that of God almighty?.

      If you ask me, in an ideal scenario, none of the above two should happen. But this isn’t an ideal world.

  12. Your views are wrong if some one say bad things about our
    holy PROPHET SAW he should be punished i say he deserved what
    happened to him and it should be a lesson for every one who goes
    against Islam this can be you so think before you speak.

  13. yeah, keep telling yourself it was a false accusation. While the murder was wrong, he had said things that he shouldn’t have as a Muslim.
    Stop getting your panties in a bunch over his murder now

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